#TIFF22 On Soko and DeFilippo’s Free Money (2022)

by Jacqueline Valencia

Directors: Sam Soko and Lauren DeFilippo

The answer to ending poverty is to share and not to hoard the means by which everyone in the world can have their basic human needs met and rights protected. World poverty is very much tied into capitalist ventures and climate change denial. In the name of colonialism, many rich organizations have gone to poorer ones in order to help and sometimes posit a demand for their own products and services. On the flipside, many others have exploited poorer nations as their means of production.

Many charities and non-for-profit companies come to these nations in need to help buffer that exploitation. However, there are various hands that donations or help go through in order to get to the people.

In Free Money, directors Sam Soko and Lauren DeFilippo, take a look at a non-profit organization called GiveDirectly. It gives cash directly to the people and places they want to help get out of poverty: a basic income. The organization has projects around the world, but this film focuses on a village of Kogutu in Kenya.

The concept is explained to the villagers, but some are very skeptical. Some even claim it’s a project by the Illuminati while others are more worried that the women will leave them once they have their own money. As GiveDirectly’s workers go around interviewing and taking down participants, the audience is given a view to the lives of some of the individual candidates.

From GiveDirectly’s view this village is an experiment to see if their projects will be successful. From director’s Soko and DeFilippo’s look at the village and the experiment, they are interested in how these ventures affect people. The directors give a nuanced look at the individuals and provide an empathetic, yet distant concern for what they are witnessing. Through interviews with the GiveDirectly workers, one of their heads, Michael Faye, and the villagers, the cause and effect of the project naturally plays out. There is drama, tragedy, and riveting suspense here. The people of Kogutu see their lives change in many ways and whether you cheer or cry, you will be moved.

Is GiveDirectly an answer to world poverty? Sam Soko and Lauren DeFilippo approach the question and reveal the answer honestly.

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