The second film I watched at the Tricontinental Film Festival was called What’s it worth?. The film looks at the impact of aid in Brazil. They estimate that $100m is spent every year in Brazil by aid organisations. If this money went directly to homeless children, it would be enough to buy them each a small apartment every 2 years.
However, because there are thousands of aid organisations, most of the money is spent on administration. A lot is also lost due to inefficiencies, overspending and misappropriation. The end result being that very few people are actually helped in a meaningful way.
What’s it worth? shows that it’s a complicated situation with many effects on different levels. By using stories about slaves from the National Archives, they show how the modern situation is not very different from the time of slavery. The poor are forced to work for a pittance just to survive, or they turn to crime. Those who are involved in foreign aid organisations are often making a huge profit and are concerned mainly with the appearance than the actual impact, doing whatever it takes to be able to raise more sponsorship. Having said that, these organisations do create jobs and bring money into the country, but it benefits those who are educated enough to qualify for the jobs. The poor still get the short end of the stick.
The film is 2 hours long and it feels long. The amount of factual data presented is limited to a few minutes at the end, the rest of the time is spent playing out scenarios which evoke an emotional response. The juxtaposition of slavery with poverty is thought provoking and not a little disturbing. I would say, if you’ve read this review, you don’t need to see the movie.