Living on One Dollar
By, Sarah Everhart
Background, Central Issue & Summary
Background: Four young men decide to journey to Pena Blanca, Guatemala to live on a dollar a day. They bring a video camera and spend 56 days in Pena Blanca, a total of $56 dollars per individual. Guatemala is a very impoverished country, and the friends decide to face the difficulties people face on a daily basis.
Central Issue: One of the main issues faced in this documentary was the culture shock. The men faced disease and hunger, and experienced what it was like to have an unpredictable income. The cost of everything for the men was a difficult thing to maneuver around, mainly because the basic essentials necessary (firewood, beans, fruits) were so expensive.
Summary: This documentary followed the lives of four men over a fifty-six day period to experience troubles faced with impoverished living. They lived in Pena Blanca and survived disease, hunger and low income conditions while making lasting relationships with the locals and working to grow radishes. They realized the colossal difficulty it is to survive making a dollar a day.
Rhetoric & Clips
Juxtaposition: At the beginning of the film, the boys are shown getting ready in the typical American routine (brushing their teeth, getting dressed, etc.) and immediately after a family in Guatemala is shown walking in a rural village, providing a sharp contrast.
Didactic: The documentary experiment was such an appeal to empathy that the audience felt morally convicted and persuaded into making a difference in the impoverished areas of the world. Through the repeated clippings of everyday life in Guatemala, it showed that many individuals take everything they have for granted.
Syntax: The phrasing that the young men use in the documentary are astute truths for the real life decisions they have to make in Pena Blanca. The debate between "feeding your child or keeping them in school" (0:35) emphasizes the decision of necessity and reiterates the loss.
(0:10) The four boys have spent one day in Guatemala, and are on their way to collect water. This was a monumental moment in the documentary because as they collect water in their bottles, they discover insects in their water along with silt and dirt. This is troublesome and upsetting because it emphasizes that people drink this water every day and it is very unhealthy.
(0:18) The problem the men were facing at this point in time was hunger: the men are used to eating roughly 3,000 calories per day, and now they are surviving off beans and rice. They are experiencing head rush, headaches, and faintness. Their fatigue levels are increased and they feel ill. Upon interviewing a local resident, he explains that his kids don't have enough energy to play and that all they eat is salt and tortillas. The lack of nutrition that the kids are facing is shocking; the only thing that people are worried about are their meals. The men just want to go home after being bitten by fleas and experiencing massive fatigue, and it's only the tenth day.
(0:28) This point in the film was a monumental moment of a surprising generosity. As the young men meet local residents in Pena Blanca, they are invited to a home containing eight people, mostly children. They learn that the residents survive of $1.25 each per day and are doing their best to provide for their children. The man barely has anything, and yet shares everything with Chris, Zach, Ryan and Sean; offering up his home and food for them any time they need. They invite the men over for snacks but instead prepare a special feast held only twice a year on special occasions, honoring the film-makers. The unhindered love shown in this clip was overwhelming and inspirational and I was thoroughly surprised by the generosity.
Purpose, Audience, Thesis & Mode
Audience: The targeted audience of this documentary was the general public. It was an easy to comprehend film that educated the general public about the impoverished community.
Thesis: To aid the diminishing of poverty, partial solutions with individual relationships yield the highest rate of difference.
The entire basis of this documentary was centered around figuring out how to impact impoverished communities resulting in implementing partial solutions.
Mode: This documentary had an interactive mode. The speakers and film crew were the young men that went on the excursion, and they conducted interviews with the locals in their native tongue. The hardships that were captured on film convinced the audience to progressively make a difference.
Logos, Ethos & Pathos
Ethos: The credibility of these students are phenomenal; the average American college-aged students who studied International Development, Economics and film production created this documentary. They had a first-hand account of life in Guatemala and applied their knowledge in an impoverished situation.
Logos: The men included a lot of statistical information in their documentary to provide factual evidence to support their argument. Seven out of ten individuals in Guatemala live in poverty. When interviewing the school systems and upon learning that 40% of the children cannot afford to finish schooling it reiterated how privileged the American school systems are.
Visual Style & Tools
Strengths, Weaknesses & Fallacies
- Documentary filmed from experience
- Interviewing natives and addressing home life
- Economic analysis of income to provide information for spending
- Incorporation of cost in the market
- Incorporation of illegal filming without progressive results
- Lack of assessing ways to help the Guatemalan population
- Not filming upon re-entry of the United States for culture shock