Distributed by Hummingbird Pictures, 612 Flower Ave. B, Venice, CA 90291
Produced by Branislav Gjorcevski and Feather Goodwin
Directed by Holly Mosher
DVD, color, 56 min. with 15 min. bonus material; Bengali and English
Jr. High - General Adult
Activism, Asian Studies, Bangladesh History, Economics, Human Rights, Poverty Studies
Reviewed by Linda Kelly Alkana, Department of History, California State University Long Beach
Date Entered: 9/4/2012
Bonsai People: The Vision of Muhammad Yunus is aptly titled. Muhammad Yunus likens poor people to the artificially stunted bonsai tree, “where nothing is wrong with their seed; society never allowed them to grow as tall as everybody else.” His vision to remedy poverty and help poor people overcome their situations led to his creation of the Grameen Bank. This innovative financial institution, which furnishes microcredit loans to poor women and demands creative requirements for eligibility (such as learning about hygiene), has changed aid in the developing world in the last few decades.
From Yunus’ initial personal loan of twenty-seven dollars given to forty-two people, microcredit has become global, and has affected over a hundred million families. Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist, received the Nobel Peace Prize for this work, and has since partnered with businesses in his attempts to do “social good.”
The video focuses on the life of poor people in rural Bangladesh, traces the steps that are taken to acquire a micro-loan, and interviews several recipients of loans in the past, assessing the benefits these specific village women have derived from the loans. The footage of the Bangladesh countryside is beautifully shot; the facts about poverty, health, malnutrition, and the fragility of life in much of the world are well placed throughout the video; and the interviews with the participants are moving.
The producers also provide bonus materials on a variety of related issues such as alternative energy, fisheries and livestock, communications, etc. In fact, Bonsai People is more of a promotional video than an analytic documentary. Nonetheless, it presents an effective introduction to microfinance and puts very human faces to global poverty, while offering hope that there are measures than can be taken to alleviate it.