By Catherine Kolonko
ContributorA documentary that pokes a provocative finger at the sins of capitalism will be shown for the first time in San Diego at an event to address poverty and the national debt of struggling countries of the southern hemisphere.
“The End of Poverty? Think Again” has been shown in more than 40 countries and selected by 25 international film festivals. The documentary will be shown, for the first time in San Diego, during a Oct. 17 event at Lomas Santa Fe Country Club held by the local chapter of Jubilee USA Network, a grassroots alliance of 80 religious, human rights environmental and labor groups working for the cancellation of crushing debts in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
A Jubilee news release about the film’s showing and panel discussion on global poverty later this month notes that a person dies every three seconds simply because he or she is too poor to live. More than 30,000 children die each day because of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, said a Jubilee spokesperson.
Narrated by actor Martin Sheen, and directed by award-winning director and writer Philippe Diaz, “The End of Poverty?” asserts in a daring way that poverty is not an accident but is the intended result of capitalism.
Many presume that poverty is the fault of those who are in it, Diaz said during a recent telephone conversation about his film, and that poor people are lazy and not working. But the film shows that even poor people who work 15 hours a day — twice the norm of a working day in the United States — still cannot advance economically because they are paid slave wages, he said. The poverty they live with is by design, Diaz maintains, by corrupt governments from other countries who stole their land hundreds of years ago.
Diaz and Beth Portello, his partner on the project, spent several months visiting countries and continents where poverty is ubiquitous with a goal of letting impoverished people speak for themselves.
“We spent a lot of time with the poor people,” Diaz said. “They were very happy to open their home and their hearts.”
The film highlights several families and workers who speak about losing their jobs and land and working long hours in perilous conditions for wages that rarely cover the cost of food and shelter.
A featured Brazilian husband and wife live with their three children in one room in a basement. The husband lost his job and could not find work so they moved to this place where there is no sanitation and they sleep on the floor. The mother recalls when their baby daughter died at 9 months old, they had to beg for money to bury her body.
The filmmakers examine what they say are the true causes of poverty which stem from actions taken during and since colonial times – stealing land from people and forcing them into servitude. Those who are living in poverty today have been exploited over centuries by being denied access to their own countries’ natural resources, then through unfair trade, debt repayment and unjust taxes on labor and consumption, according to Diaz. The film’s premise is that this system was carefully built and maintained by free market policies, resource monopolies and structural adjustment programs by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international financial institutions.
Susan George, an activist and author on social justice issues, says that while information presented in the film is not new, it is the first time anyone has put all the pieces together in such a comprehensive narrative. During an appearance in the film, George says that countries of the southern hemisphere are supporting those of the north to the tune of $200 billion a year.
In Ethiopia, a country with one of the highest child and maternal mortality rates in the world, the $197 million spent on servicing debt in 2001 could have fully financed a basic package of health care for mothers and children, according to the film’s promoters.
Diaz denies some critics’ claims that the film is anti-American. He says it is more a warning that the consumption by Americans and others in the westernized world cannot continue at the present pace without dire consequences. Until roughly 50 years ago, corporations and governments operated with the mindset that the planet’s resources were unlimited. Even today we in the westernized world consume at a pace that far accelerates what we produce, says Diaz, and the consequences are as much mathematical as they are moral.
“Clearly we are digging a hole,” he said.
In some ways we are hostage to a system that was created by our ancestors hundreds of years ago, Diaz said. But for the future of the planet and generations to come, the system of consumption and waste must be changed, Diaz said.
Jubilee San Diego/USA Network will present the feature -length documentary at a fundraiser on Sunday, Oct. 17, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Lomas Santa Fe Country Club. Diaz will attend to answer questions and join a panel discussion after the viewing. Tickets are $75 per person. The event includes a buffet supper and a panel discussion following the film. Co-hosts for this event are: The Foundation for Women, The Grauer School, Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, and the Rancho Santa Fe Democratic Club. Reservations are required as seating is limited. Additional information is available at 858-756-0844 or
- The web site for the film is