The most articulate film to date describing the modern means and methods of the free market enslavement of undeveloped countriesThis film does not so much expose poverty as it attempts to get to the root cause of it. Exposing poverty often takes the form of videos of starving children and first person stories of those existing on the verge of death from day to day. There is some of that in this film but it develops those scenes into a compelling argument exposing what might be called planned poverty.
The movie has to walk a fine line in appealing to a broad audience by not getting too theoretical and detached. At the same time director Philippe Diaz and producer Beth Portello knew that they had to bring out some heavy guns to show that poverty is not coincidental. It is a concerted and planned effort by developed countries to own the means of production and survival of undeveloped countries. This is the way that developed countries can continue to colonize resource rich areas of the world without being accused of outright colonization. It is enslavement that substitutes food, water and medicine for shackles and chains.
By the end of the film the viewer is not given the solution to the end of poverty. Rather they are provided with the means and inspiration to at least confront their own part in its continuation.
The international banking industry and the international corporation have joined forces to create what is the modern large scale version of the old American “company store.” Best known in isolated mining towns, the corporation would build the company store to provide the necessities of life to its workers in the town. The wages of the workers and the prices in the company store would be aligned so that the workers never had any money left over at the end of the month. This ensured that the workers would never have the capital to be independent of the company or, even worse, to compete against it.
The modern Reagan/Thatcher era version of the country store is the World Bank. The Bank makes a loan to an undeveloped country to build a massive project such as a port system, hydroelectric dam or oil refinery. The international corporations take a good part of the money right off the top in engineering and processing fees; more goes to corrupt local politicians. When the project is complete it can not generate enough revenue to repay the loan. Therefore the country owes the bank and the countries that own the bank unlimited favors including the right to force their citizens extract raw materials at poverty wages.
The circle is completed when vital necessities such as water, power, communication and medical care are sold to private interests to help pay off the loans. Once the private interests own these live-giving entities, they are free to vacuum up any remaining money that might still be in the possession of the populace.
Although the film will be criticized as preachy and providing no real answers it does have some priceless interviews and some of the most articulate explanations of neo-colonialization in any film produced to date. In his elucidation of the principles of economic enslavement the film maker draws a powerful parallel to that guiding spirit of the Western world, the “free market” economy. Of course the market is not free to everyone. As it happens, it is much more free to those selling than it is to those buying especially when the buyers are buying to survive and the sellers are selling to raise money to further control the means of production.
In the end, humans will be humans and they will subjugate others as they can. At least so it seems. The solution to the problem is evasive but perhaps a bit of honesty is a good first step.
Written and Directed by: Philippe Diaz
Featuring: Susan George, Joseph Stiglitz, Eric Toussaint
Narration by: Martin Sheen
Release: November 13, 2009
MPAA: Not Rated
Runtime: 106 minutes
Language: Spanish / French / Portuguese / English