Poor Us: an animated history Do we know what poverty is? (58mins)

If we want to make poverty history, we need to understand the history of poverty. A funny and sinister animated odyssey through time. 

All about Poor Us

You can watch the film above. Or download it here. Please get in touch if you’d like a copy on DVD.

About the film

What is poverty? What drives it? Or stops it? And how have our attitudes to it changed over the years?

This film takes you on a dream-like journey through time and poverty, examining attitudes, drivers and solutions from the early hunter gatherers to today’s financial meltdown.

For most of history,“everybody in the world was poor”, points out economist Jeffrey Sachs. As societies got richer, they developed different attitudes to poverty.  The Ancient Greeks seemed to think poverty was essential: “Drive me, Poverty, out of Greece! That would be a disaster for humanity! If wealth were equally distributed , then no-one will ever work again”. 

The Chinese on the other hand, developed sophisticated programs to prevent famine and extreme poverty.  As Confucius says,  “In a well governed country, poverty is something to be ashamed of.  But in a badly governed country, wealth is something to be ashamed of”.

Leap round the world, and “the basic lesson of Medieval poverty“ according to historian Tim Hitchcock, “is that there are bureaucracies and systems being built on the sufferings of others all the time. And that is true now, as it has always been.”

As the world becomes a global economy, the rich North seems to push the once-wealthy South into poverty.  “The industrial revolution has set the world on a course of huge reductions of extreme poverty,” argues Jeffrey Sachs, “that’s human progress.”  But progress has also led to huge. “The elite doesn’t just give way”, observes Development Economist Frances Stewart.

When you wake from your dream, will you think things are better or worse than they were in the past?

In Figures...

  • According to the World Bank, 1.4 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day. That’s its definition of extreme poverty. But a further 3 billion people live on less than $2 a day.
  • An estimated 30,000 children die each day due to poverty - that is 18 children a minute; one child every three seconds.
  • Approximately 600 million children live in extreme poverty.
  • Around 2.6 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation and about 885 million people do not have access to clean water.
  • ​In the US, one of the richest nations in the world, 1.6 million children are homeless - that's 1 in 45 children in America who experience homelessness each year.

Other Resources

Read or download a full synopsis of the film.

Read or download the film transcript.

Find out more about how what poverty is and how it’s measured.

Use our interactive dataviz to find out more about poverty  in your country and around the globe.

Find out more about Ben Lewis and what motivated him to make this film. Watch a short Q and A session with him.  

Educators' Resources

We've put together a guide for Educators & Faciliators with ideas and suggestions on using the films as a teaching tool or starting point for discussions. You can:

What can I do?

Please share this film and encourage people to start asking questions about poverty. It's an easy but effective way to keep the debate about poverty going.  

If you’d like to arrange a screening of Poor Us or include it in a festival, please contact us.  

If you want to find out more about what can be done to tackle poverty around the world, try these organisations:

  • Transparency International: an organisation that monitors and publicises corporate and political corruption around the world. It has bases in more than 100 countries - so there's probably a branch near you.
  • Alliance 2015:a strategic network of 7NGO's, working towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and eradicating poverty.
  • /The Rules: an organisation working to change the rules that create poverty and inequality.
  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: dedicated to improving the quality of life of individuals around the world, the Foundation makes partnerships and gives grants, focussed on areas where they can bring about substantial change.
  • Whiteband:the world's largest civil society movement, calling for an end to poverty and inequality.

Photos, logos & trailers

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You can see and share a trailer for the film.

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