"Poverty, Inc. provides genuine food for thought."
Variety's chief international film critic Peter Debruge (@AskDebruge) reviewed Poverty, Inc. at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) in November. Here are a few excerpts. Visit Variety for the full review: Film Review: ‘Poverty Inc.’
The idea isn’t to discourage giving, but rather to illustrate how the current paradigm doesn’t work, providing clear examples and practical solutions that serve as a useful conversation-starter flexible enough to enrich discussions everywhere from college campuses to community churches — in addition to activism-oriented film festivals, of course.
The problem, “Poverty Inc.” cautions, is that few pause to think what happens after they’ve written the check, never fathoming that the mere act of giving can actually have have a detrimental effect.
Like Ricardo Pollack’s demoralizing 2012 docu “The Trouble With Aid” (whose litany of seven humanitarian disasters inadvertently makes all foreign aid feel futile, or at least counter-productive), “Poverty Inc.” treads a delicate line between condemning NGOs and encouraging otherwise generous-minded souls to think twice about the sort of support they provide to societies in need — the key advantage here being Miller’s solution-oriented focus on the “right” kind of aid.
Though the film’s title suggests an almost conspiratorial movement to keep the poor in their place while a network of grabby NGOs get rich, Miller actually focuses more on those who are thinking outside the box — where “the box” is a system, simplistically diagrammed, by which countries and corporations stand to gain. In that spirit, “Poverty Inc.” spotlights self-starters who’ve arisen in otherwise impoverished countries, including such African entrepreneurs as Herman Chinery-Hesse and Magatte Wade, who don’t mince words when critiquing anti-poverty crusaders like Bono and Toms Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie who focus on hand-outs, rather than giving the poor a leg up.
Miller avoids the manipulative tricks of lesser filmmakers, presenting his argument with lucidity and reason. Whereas others give without thinking, “Poverty Inc.” provides genuine food for thought.