BBC Storyville to show a series of international documentaries looking at contemporary poverty

BBC Four already has a strong track record of broadcasting international films via the Storyville strand, and we’re pleased to be taking part in this global cross-media event which will get UK audiences thinking about contemporary poverty in new ways."Richard Klein, Controller, BBC Four
Date: 18.10.2012     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 17.55
Category: BBC One; BBC Four
BBC Storyville, working with more than 70 broadcasters around the world, is hosting a debate about contemporary poverty with Why Poverty? – a set of ground-breaking international documentaries screening in November.

The global cross-media event produced in partnership with The Open University will see the same eight films screened in 180 countries to explore why, in the 21st century, a billion people still live in poverty.

From a behind-the-scenes look at Bob Geldof and Bono’s 30-year campaign and the moving story of illiterate women becoming solar engineers, to films exploring the impact of multinationals in Zambia and the privatisation of education in China, the series will give expression to a diverse range of voices from around the world and kickstart a new debate about contemporary poverty.

BBC Four will be the home of Why Poverty?, screening seven documentaries over two weeks, while the series will launch on BBC One with Four Born Every Second (w/t) – a lyrical and sobering look at childbirth and infant mortality around the world.

“BBC Four already has a strong track record of broadcasting international films via the Storyville strand, and we’re pleased to be taking part in this global cross-media event which will get UK audiences thinking about contemporary poverty in new ways,” said Richard Klein, BBC Four Controller.

“Why Poverty? aims to create a global conversation about poverty and I’m very proud that Storyville, working with broadcasters from around the world, has been able to find and commission such a wide range of thought-provoking and deeply engaging films about a subject that concerns the whole world,” said Nick Fraser, Commissioning Editor, Storyville.

Launching Why Poverty?, Four Born Every Second (w/t) puts the spotlight on birth and infant mortality around the world. One hundred and thirty million babies are born each year, but the circumstances - and place - of their birth will determine how they live - and for how long. Brian Hill (Songbirds, Feltham Sings, The Not Dead) travels from the UK to America, Cambodia and Sierra Leone in search of the stories surrounding birth around the world.

In Solar Mamas, filmmakers Jehane Noujaim and Mona Eldaief follow the remarkable story of Jordanian mother-of-four Rafea, who overcomes the objections of her patriarchal husband to train as a solar engineer at India’s Barefoot College. Along with 27 other mothers and grandmothers from poor communities around the world - many of whom are illiterate - she learns the skills needed to bring light to her beleaguered village.

Give Us The Money (dir. Bosse Lindquist) takes an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at 30 years of Bob Geldof and Bono’s campaign to make poverty history. Their campaign has made them icons of aid, but what impact has it really had on Africa?

Park Avenue: Money, Power and The American Dream focuses on the residents of 740 Park Avenue - the plushest apartment building in Manhattan and home to generations of high-rolling Wall Streeters. Two kilometres to the north is another Park Avenue in the South Bronx, where life prospects are less good for those stuck at the bottom of the American pile. Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney looks at inequality in the US through the prism of these two, near-adjacent places.

In Stealing Africa, investigative reporter and filmmaker Christopher Gulbrandsen travels to Zambia to look at why one of the most mineral-rich countries in Africa is also one of the most economically poor. What role does a multinational corporation play in this?

Education! Education! explores the privatisation of the Chinese education system which sees many of the country’s poorest children studying at low-standard private colleges. Will they end up joining the ‘ant tribe’ – the two million graduates each year who have no jobs? The fate of a generation of educated young is now acknowledged to be among the greatest social problems, and Weijun Chen’s film shines a unique light on the question of whether education really can help forge a route out of poverty.

Poor Us – An Animated History of Poverty looks back at the changing attitudes to poverty throughout history. Beginning in the Neolithic Age, Ben Lewis’s film, narrated by actor Shaun Parkes, takes us through the changing world of poverty.

Land Rush looks at food security and the rush for arable land as vast tracks of the developing world are bought up or leased by multi-national agribusiness. Hugo Berkeley and Osvalde Lewat’s film follows a collection of investors and developers as they attempt to find a new, more inclusive model of development in Mali. But what impact will this have on the lives of the local farmers?

Notes to editors

Why Poverty? is organised by Steps International – an affiliation of broadcasters which comes together to commission and produce documentary series. It first came together to produce Why Democracy? – a series of films screened by broadcasters around the world in 2007. Why Poverty? wants to kick-start new global debate about poverty in the 21st century: In the last week of November 2012 more than 70 broadcasters throughout the world, covering more than 180 countries will join each other in putting poverty firmly on the global agenda. It is expected to reach around 500-800 million people worldwide. The films have been commissioned and funded by an editorial group from the broadcasting partners and produced in partnership with The Open University. To continue this learning journey with The Open University, visit and follow the links to the OU website.