“Whereas others give without thinking, “Poverty Inc.” provides genuine food for thought.”
As if poverty weren’t a challenging enough phenomenon unto itself, time has revealed that good intentions by outsiders can in many cases make the problem worse — a cruel irony that serves as the basis of Michael Matheson Miller’s “Poverty Inc.,” an easy-to-understand docu-essay with a tough-to-accept message, especially as it implies that some aid organizations may actually be cashing in on their concern. 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.
DeBruge also notes that the film is not only a critique of the current model of development, but also tries to re-present people in the developing world, not as mere objects of charity or compassion, but as the protagonists of their own story of development. He continues:
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.