Friday, February 10, 2012

Bonsai People (FILM REVIEW)

Bonsai People: The Vision of Muhammad Yunus
Film Review by Kam Williams

Micro-Lending Biopic Recounts Nobel-Winner’s Philanthropic Effort to Eradicate Poverty

In 2006, Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize for opening a new type of bank in his native Bangladesh. His basic idea was to extend micro-loans to poor women so they could have a decent chance of breaking the cycle of poverty via self-employment.
The innovative program proved to be so popular that it has been replicated around the world to the point that, today, over $6 billion has been borrowed by close to 8 million individuals. Bonsai People: The Vision of Muhammad Yunus is a reverential biopic which pays homage to that philanthropic achievement by the pioneering economist.
The inspirational documentary marks the full-length feature directorial debut of Holly Mosher, a talented, NYU Tisch School grad who has dedicated her career to creating socially-conscious movies. In the film, Ms. Mosher gives her eminently-quotable subject free rein to expound upon his people-friendly philosophy.
Ever the optimist, Yunus states that “We can create a poverty-free world, if we collectively believe in it.” Surprisingly anti-materialistic for an economist, he further fervently believes “Making an impact on people’s lives is every bit as fulfilling as making money.”
Betwixt and between such sage insights, the film follows the progress of a number of micro-lending beneficiaries over the course of a year. Again and again, we see that the difference as little as $100 in start-up cash can make in a life is staggering.
The picture’s takes its title from Yunis’ explanation that “Poor people are bonsai people; there is nothing wrong with their seed--society never allowed them the space to grow… Our job is to help everyone unleash their potential.”
Sadly, his success has spawned a cottage industry of avaricious imitators, many of whom charge their unsuspecting victims usurious loan rates.
Of course, the Nobel-winner laments this unfortunate development. Nonetheless, he remains committed to the cause, affirming that “Micro-lending is not about making money off the backs of the poor.”
A moving tribute to a true visionary with a viable plan to alleviate suffering.

Excellent (4 stars)
In Bengali with subtitles
Running time: 79 minutes
Distributor: Hummingbird Pictures

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