I remember a thing I probably heard or read about NGOs coming into poor villages and giving them cows and other things. The people running the NGOs think that things like cows will help them with, say, livestock and will give those villages an income stream. The cows probably work but it wasn’t a magic bullet, and when the NGO asks the villagers why, the latter group said they preferred to just get money so that they can determine what to use it for, from essential needs to investments. GiveDirectly is one of those NGOs but different. Co-founder Michael Faye puts into practice the story I wrote above, choosing some villages in Kenya to give money to and studying that village’s response to the money.
Free Money, then, is the story of the NGO and its foot soldiers trying to solve income inequality but also inadvertently causing a different version of that equality. It looks at the people on the ground who determine which villages and residents are eligible for the money, thus making many people’s lives better but leaving others behind. The documentary has a few memorable participants, including BBC America anchor Larry Madowo, who voices his skepticism towards Faye in his work. Another is Jael, who, because of the NGO’s bureaucracy, isn’t eligible for the money and has to listen to her sister talk about how they money helps her. There’s a comprehensiveness to the documentary that depicts the bittersweet complexity of the subjects that it handles.
- Release Date: 9/12/2022