Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010

Good Fortune?

Close Look at Third World Aid


By David Luhrssen
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Expensive projects to eradicate poverty in the Third World have come under scrutiny, though they seem to continue despite the criticism. In the PBS documentary “Good Fortune,” two views from the grass roots of Kenya add a measure of dimension to the debate. “Good Fortune” is out Sept. 14 on DVD.


Director Jeremy Levine follows subsistence farmers near the Yala Swamp and ghetto dwellers in Kibera, a sprawling shantytown of rusted roofs and clapboard outside the capital of Nairobi. An American agribusiness giant’s seemingly beneficent scheme to turn the Yala area into a “Garden of Eden” seems to trigger devastating floods. The corporation’s chemical sprays are accused of causing sickness and miscarriages. Meanwhile in Kibera, there is much distrust over a UN-sponsored slum clearance program because money always seems to end up in the pockets of corrupt officials and new housing stock always goes to government supporters.


“Good Fortune” was filmed against the backdrop of the disputed Kenyan presidential election of 2007 and the violence that followed. The Western media depicted the conflict as tribal in origin. In “Good Fortune,” an element of class warfare seems apparent in an uprising against the regime’s close relationship with foreign business interests.

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