Living On One Dollar 56mins 00secs
Living On One Dollar follows four college students, Chris Temple, Zach Ingrasci, Sean Leona and Ryan Christofferson as they document their two month stay in Guatemala, where they attempt to survive on one dollar a day.
Before watching the film, I was skeptical about the concept of four privileged Euro-American boys occupying the space of an underrepresented population, as most times when such people are documented, the end product can sometimes be an inaccurate depiction of how they live, influenced heavily by the film maker’s ethnocentrism.
However, while watching the film, those feelings soon dissolved and I gained a great level of respect for the film makers and what they were able to achieve.
I was captured from inception by the cinematography and editing, as the film begins juxtaposing footage from the film makers’ lives at home, and that of those in Guatemala. It shows a clean kitchen counter with an electric stove, followed by a burnt out-dated stove being lit with matches; a well stocked and neat bathroom sink, followed by a mossy sink in a back yard, emphasizing the difference in economic background. What I also appreciated about the film’s aesthetics, was the “progress report” in the form of photos taken every week to see their physical progress as their journey advanced. As the weeks passed, they looked more drained, and one of the film makers even contracted parasites in his body.
Aesthetics aside, what I appreciate about the content of the film, was the way in which the natives were documented. Unlike most ethnographic films, which show natives as primitive people who know no way other than the life they live in seclusion, this film shows a more holistic view of native Guatemalans living in poverty. They may be poor but some in the community can afford to send their children to school. They have amenities like electricity, and banks and they visit the town and are totally capable of interacting outside of their home base. They also have dreams and aspirations, and do not simply think the life they live is the only thing that exists and that they should settle, like Chico and Rosa. Rosa is a 21 year old woman who aspires to be a nurse. However she left school at 10 years old to provide for her family with her mother. The film eventually shows how Rosa uses her skill of making patterned cloth to earn enough money to send herself to school. A documentary called Rosa, These Storms, produced by the same production company behind Living On One Dollar, was made documenting Rosa’s journey to nursing school. What I disliked however in Living On One Dollar, was how dramatic Rosa’s progress was documented, it almost seems fake as the other scenarios that played out were pretty laid back in their. When they first spoke with Rosa he was in tears speaking about how she had no money for school, and at the end of the film (which appeared to be the end of the 2 month stay), she was in nursing school. It appears unrealistic given the time frame of the documentary.
Chico is a 12year old boy who aspires to be a footballer but currently is farming to provide for his family. The film also shows him learning English and how he progresses in the language.
The way in which they implemented the “Dollar A Day Concept” was quite creative. Realistically, people living in harsh conditions don’t have a dollar every day and would sometimes go days even weeks without money. The film makers decided to put different numbers in a hat that would add up to the amount they have to spend, and each day, they draw a number, which displayed the amount of money they have to spend for that day.
The film primarily utilized three modes of film making, participatory, expository and observational and they all worked in tandem to create a well told and aesthetically pleasing final product.