Greetings, warriors of justice,
The Thursday before last, Richelle and I attended a screening of Give a Damn? (giveadamndoc.com), hosted by Overflow Coffee Bar (overflowcoffeebar.org) and South Loop Vineyard (vineyardsouthloop.org). Being the case that the film was indeed screened at Overflow, the candy-based concessional options were limited. I’ll admit that I haven’t looked into Nestle chocolate’s record concerning the circumstances under which their chocolate is harvested and processed, even though the scarce-to-be-found Buncha Crunch is my preferred concession of choice. My mother gave me a box of Buncha Crunch, possibly for my birthday last June, which I have yet to eat. I’ve just been waiting for that right film to come out. And there was no way that I’d sneak it into Overflow. Rather, I decided to explore the options on Overflow’s counter.
While I’m generally ignorant as to the journey that connects cocoa beans traversing the globe from their trees to my mouth, I now know for certain that the Omanhene chocolate sold at Oveflow is from Ghana. (The milk chocolate incarnation is delicious as well.) Rather than trying to re-tell the company’s “Beyond Fair Trade” philosophy (omanhene.com), feel free to read it yourself. When I bought the chocolate, I didn’t feel as though I was simply buying candy to solely please my palate. Rather, I was buying “Chocolate bullets fired into the backs of labor traffickers.” I explained my vigor to Justin, who was running the cash register. He pulled out a sticky-note, wrote down my quote and stuck it to the bottom of the box. It may be coincidence, but more chocolate was bought after my purchase that evening than before. Rather than “voting with my dollars,” I prefer to wage war with them: at least when I know there’s a war going on.
Instead of detouring down the path of my ignorant expenditures of daily life as I struggle to have an awareness of my cash’s “flow”, let’s check out Give a Damn? It’s an independent documentary of three friends, Dan and David, both whom are Christian, and Rob, Dan’s atheist friend, who set out across the US, Europe and Africa in an attempt to experience the extremities of poverty on all three continents. While the focus of the film isn’t observations of human trafficking, it gives you a swab of the human condition at each place they visit. Sex trafficking in Africa is mentioned but not explored. But the experiences of the trip for the two Christian individuals has brought them to the battle against human trafficking. But first, let’s look at the film some more.
Unsuccessful in raising enough funds to cover expenses, the three of them decided to hitchhike from St. Louis to DC, London to Athens and across several Central and Eastern African countries. Because the average person in Nairobi’s Kibera slum lives off $1.25 a day, they limited their money for food and shelter to that amount. During their travels they interviewed professors, politicians and locals from all three continents to add to the depth of their journey.
Because of their limited budget, rather than staying in hotels or hostels, the three slept in tents when on the road, crashed on couches and on occasion, stayed overnight in abandoned buildings occupied by homeless citizens. Upon flying into Nairobi, Kenya, the team sent out upon Kibera, the second largest urban slum in Africa. They slept there for at least one night. It’s unclear how long they stayed because their visit was interrupted. Unlike the average documentary you come across, you don't just see filmmakers reporting on the slum, but living and interacting with its residents. It's actually that way with most of the places they visited. They eat and sleep with homeless people. There’s no elaborate film crew backing these guys. The film is shot with handheld cameras and told so well that if they never told you they had a $4.50-a-day budget, you’d wouldn’t have known the difference if it had been in the thousands.
Whereas most documentaries try to present multiple points of view on what the audience is experiencing and give “equal” coverage and what not, Give a Damn? goes deeper than most documentaries will ever find possible. How could they not when you’re witnessing two Christians and an atheist's reactions to the dire circumstances they encounter. Where Dan and David may be filled with hope and excitement, Rob has his extremely skeptical counterpoint. This puts the film in a place where Christians and non-Christians are both confronted by the events in the film. And they let the footage and interviews do the most important talking whereas the points of narration fill in the blanks rather than beating you over the head with how you should feel.
Lastly, concerning the film, I think we should hear a little bit from them:
The goal was to make a funny, adventurous and compelling film about the ability young people have to make a difference in the extreme poverty and injustice in this world. What makes the film truly special is that it takes an honest, straightforward approach to extreme poverty that appeals to both the activist and the apathetic. Our overall goal is “to connect those who need something to live for with those who just need something to live.” We hope the film challenges the viewer to ask themselves two questions, 'What Breaks their Heart?' & 'What Makes them come alive' and think of ways to put those together.
Give a Damn? is searching for screening opportunities currently. Last Friday I went ahead and wrote a shorter review with a slightly different focus and suggested a screening to my church’s global mission’s pastor. The filmmakers aren’t too far away from Chicago, only in St. Louis, I believe. All three men were present and gave us one of the best Q&A sessions I’ve ever attended. The impact of the experience is obvious considering their current projects. David has started a non-profit to provide housing to sex trafficking victims in Africa (When the Saints - whenthesaints.com). Dan is working on his next film, Hitman to Hero: "former Nicaraguan killer devotes his life to rescuing victims of human trafficking.” I’m not finding on the film’s website exactly what Rob is doing, but I believe it involved offering microloans through World Vision to people in developing countries to start businesses. As the loan is paid off, the money will be invested in another small business.
This film, my fellow warriors, offers an amazing experience to all who view it. Don’t settle for my review. Seek it out, host a screening. And I’m sorry for getting this post up a day late. I hope you didn’t bite down your nails too much while waiting.
TF Convention Outreach Director