Warning: Don’t watch The End of Poverty? (or read about it) if you want to preserve your contentment with your lifestyle and the web of structures—historic and current—that make it possible. If the notion of the United States as empire—and poverty as the direct result of empire—is unpalatable, turn the page quickly. Even if ending poverty sounds like a good idea, don’t proceed unless dismantling our current global structures also sounds good—because that’s what it will take to end poverty, according to a new documentary released by Cinema Libre Studio.
The question mark in the film’s title suggests that poverty may very well not end if we don’t seriously confront the structural violence that divides the global community along wealth lines. Filmmaker Philippe Diaz’s tour of the voracious expansion of globalization and capitalism begins in 1492 and traverses continents and centuries, weaving a historical tapestry of the creation of poverty. “Our economic system is, and always has been, financed by the poor,” states narrator (and actor) Martin Sheen, as the film builds its indictment of colonizers, conquistadors, and the modern-day market empire.
Interviews with authors, economists, activists, politicians, and historians from all corners of the world disclose what history books tend to gloss over: Land and natural resources were stolen from indigenous people of the Southern Hemisphere and the wealth was transferred to the North, financing industrial revolutions and hooking those countries on an addiction that has lasted from colonialism to today. Land and resources still have not been returned to the people, and now, instead of empires shipping away silver and gold in full view, transnational corporations have privatized more common natural resources, such as sugar cane and water, and topped it off with a mountain of debt repayment and unjust trade and taxes.