The Documentary on Poverty: Step #1 is to get to it

Have you ever been in a tornado warning zone? I didn’t experience this much until I moved to the East Coast. The last time I was in a tornado warning I had assumed sirens would go off if there was a problem. After all, that’s in the movies (but I guess not in Northern Virginia). So just chilled out with no TV, radio or internet while I left my sleeping baby in her crib on the very top floor of our townhouse. I was oblivious. So this time my weather-nerd friend came over to warn me right when I was about to walk out the door to see 58: The Film that I was about to drive into the storm path of hell. She is really nice. But as she wasn’t singing Antoine Dodson’s “Hide your kids, hide your wife, hide your husband ‘cuz…” so I didn’t think she meant that I should seek shelter in the basement.  After all, at this point it was still just a tornado watch locally. So I left the kids with the sitter and drove off.

A picture of the surprising blue sky smack in the middle of our storm

It was the most wild ride I have ever driven, getting to that theater.  Insane rain. Insane lighting, thunder and fury. I was supposed to pick my husband up, and I passed the exit just because I was paying more attention to the pounding rain and low descending clouds. But I did get him. All the while my weather-nerd friend was calling or texting, telling me there was a new rotation in the clouds- right above our heads! We drove down flooded streets and by river-sidewalks while we were supposed to be taking cover. How do people live like this all the time in tornado alley? But then the sky opened directly overhead, lovely blue brimming over the clouds. And we made it to the theater, while the storm became a chilled out version of itself for the next few hours. I was thrilled.

We were supposed to get there 1/2 hour early, as the showing already had full-capacity. I was going to have some friends come with us, but they couldn’t even get tickets in advance! Except I think most people took heed and didn’t venture out.  So instead of over-packed it was 1/3 full.  So, we started 58: The Film with the thrill of super-cool-storm fresh in memory and box of really expensive, yummy, fattening movie crap-food to eat. As we watched a film on extreme poverty. Because, of course, I knew we wouldn’t want to spend money on food after watching such a film, right?

The Live 58 Movement to End Poverty

Okay, okay. Enough about me. So how was 58: The Film? Or maybe I should start with what is it?

A bunch of organizations partnered together to try to get a segment of the population -Christians- to care about extreme poverty.  Each of these backing organizations (such as Compassion International, Living Water, IJM, Food for the Hungry, etc…) have a focus on international issues and have a lot of people who back their specific cause. But although there is a scattering of Christians who care about poverty, I think they realized that if they all pushed together, they could have a huge and broad spectrum of influence. Enough of one to create a movement among The Church to get up and act.

Hence, they started this movement, dubbing it Live 58 (Fast. Forward. The End of Poverty.) The name comes from a Bible passage, Isaiah 58 , which has some pretty good stuff in it. It pretty much tells the religious to wake up and stop being religious already. These people are trying to do a traditional fast. They don’t eat. They look pathetic. They “humble” themselves by sitting in ashes. And God could care less. He wants them to get up and  stop fighting. And stop oppressing others. And do something for those who are hungry!

6 “No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
7 Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

Sigh. Isaiah 58. Like I said, good stuff. God likes this stuff. And since Christians like God, ergo maybe we should heed its guidance . . .

From this, this month the Live 58 movement was launched this to draw Christians together, first, by helping them discover that there are extremely poor and oppressed people in our world. And that if Christians alone worked together, we could end extreme poverty- something which would make Jesus more famous.

Movie Review of 58: The Film

That, in a nutshell is what 58: The Film is about. It started its debut in theaters this past week  (I mentioned it in my post Documentaries: Growing our Awareness in 2011).

It ends up focusing on the stories of different people around the world. For example, we listen to a woman’s story in rural Ethiopia. She is very pregnant, has 3 kids, and her husband left her. She is like “Ya, life is hard. I spend all day walking hours looking for sticks to sell so maybe we can eat while my younger kids languish.” But she says it like someone here who says “Ya, life is hard. Today I found out my kid is dating a looser, my baby is teething and some car was tailgating me all the way to work. Then I got stuck in traffic for an hour on the way home!” I am not saying our concerns aren’t valid, as I agree that would probably be a bad day. I am saying that although our bad day seems like nothing to this woman’s daily life, to her, it is not the end of the world. She knows no other life than one of extreme poverty. No, she doesn’t know what to do and doesn’t want her family to die. I am only pointing out her attitude is decent, considering her circumstances. While watching her story, it was I who was crying for her because I knew how bad her life really is. But she got the concept that she can still experience hope because she follows Jesus, even if all her problems aren’t fixed. And her problems are huge.

That was the genius of this movie. It wasn’t a “look at all these starving children and feel guilty.” It was just seeing reality for what it is and these real people accepted it as such. Both the good and the bad.

Besides the Ethiopian family, the film also brought us into the lives of individuals in the slums in Kenya, an ex-druggie in Brazil, a British woman with a changed perspective, and we meet different people in India. Some of their realities were incomprehensible to me, covering experiences such as bonded labor, sex trafficking, slum-life, and rural living. Lives without opportunities. Then at the end of the movie, we are again reminded that these are real people, as we were told what has happened to them in the months since they were filmed for this documentary. I can’t help but wonder what each of these real people are doing right now. And if anyone has intervened on their behalf.

This is what I loved about this movie.  I became friends with these individuals. I love it when the “issue” becomes a person. I love it when I actually can tangibly see why I do what I do and why I believe what I believe: We should end extreme poverty because these are real people whom I know God still loves. Joining these lives for just a few minutes on screen is why I think 58: The Film is probably something every one who claims to be a Christian should see.

On a more practical note, 58: The Film is rated PG-13 because of strong thematic material. Personally, I would let kids as young as seven or eight see it, if their parents were cool with that. Besides seeing what poverty looks like (sometimes gross or shocking) it mentions drinking, drugs, and sexual exploitation of kids (although nothing graphic, inappropriate, and the section highlighting this was vague descriptively). Still, younger kids might find it boring. There are a few parts where there are discussions about what the Bible says, Israel as the backdrop, which isn’t that thrilling (even if they are saying good stuff). Sometimes I thought they lingered on different parts of stories for too long, where I found myself thinking “I think we got the point already.” Its not a perfect movie, but it is a good quality film that I still think is powerful and good enough to get this movement rolling.

My favorite part was where this guy who fights human trafficking in India is expressing that his life has changed since he starting acting on the behalf of the girls he has been rescuing. He said it was crazy; hands-down the hardest thing he has ever done. But he feels such fulfillment doing what he does now.

And I got that, what he was saying. It seems that when we live for what is bigger than us, what we are truly called to live, then we are the most fulfilled and happy. Even if we have nothing, are always taking risks, and aren’t making a life for ourselves- this is when we are alive.  The movie and the Live: 58 movement doesn’t outright promise this to us, but this is kinda what they are implying and its kinda what the rest of Isaiah 58 implies. You can officially or unofficially jump on the bandwagon with us (pledging to end extreme poverty) and by losing your life this way I’m pretty sure you will actually finally start to live.

Ideas for Action:

Find Live 58 : The Film showing near you by clicking here. Currently, you can also see it online by clicking here. Watch it!

Sign up to be part of the movement by clicking here. Doing this will help grow your own understanding and be empowered by this group to change the world in partnership with a bunch of other Christians.

This week only (through Sunday night, October 23rd) if you go to you can buy a cool shirt. The proceeds of these shirts go through Live 58 to help free slaves of human trafficking. As this was an element in the film, seems like a good place to put your buck. And Sevenly shirts are amazingly comfy, to make it better!

And check out Average Advocate’s book review of Live 58’s Living Fast by Scott Todd when you click here.