Documentary-makers join forces to expose the evil of global poverty

From Global development | The Guardian Sat Nov 17 2012, 19:01:05

Directors of films in the forthcoming BBC series Why Poverty? explain how they tackled the subject and what it taught them

Are US billionaires destroying the American Dream? Can large-scale agricultural development have a positive effect in Africa? Are Bono and Bob Geldof actually doing any good? And can the history of human poverty over 10,000 years be told in less than 60 minutes? These and many other questions are being posed in a new series of documentaries and short films entitled Why Poverty? launching on Monday night on BBC1. The series, which will be screened in 180 countries including India, Zimbabwe and Brazil, aims to kick-start a global debate in the hope of addressing a broader question: why, in the 21st century, do a billion people live in poverty?

"I think it's an important time to be having this conversation for two reasons," says Nick Fraser, editor of BBC Storyville and co-founder of Steps International, the organisation behind the series. "The first is that people in rich countries and elsewhere are getting more and more perturbed about the inequalities in the world. Secondly, we are beginning to take stock of what has been done about global poverty to date. There's widespread scepticism about aid and the activities of NGOs, and a new generation is starting to think about poverty in a different way. Rather than seeking a magic bullet or a one-size-fits-all solution, they are relating the question of poverty to many different things - to human rights, to quality of government, to the individual motivations of poor people."

To introduce the Why Poverty? documentaries, which continue on BBC4 Four until 6 December, the Observer talked to some of the film-makers involved about the stories they reported on and what they learned.

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