Living On One Dollar

Living on one dollar

Could you live on only one dollar a day? Maybe, for a while? Now, could you raise a family on it? Surprisingly, over 1.1 billion people (15–20% of the world) live on less than one USD per day.

In 2010, four university students studying international development and film making embarked on a journey to live out this reality. They moved to a small Guatemalan community where most of the village was living on just one dollar per day. The students, coming from American Middle Class backgrounds, decided they needed some real life experience to learn about poverty rather than just studying it academically. Deeply touch by the situation of their neighbors in that community, they decided to produce Living On One Dollar to create awareness of the dire situation far too many people are living in.

living on one dollar 3In the documentary, we follow these young men who take two cameras, minimal supplies, and the promise to live on only one dollar a day for a whole summer in rural Guatemala. The documentary does a fantastic job of setting the scene by explaining how the young men were influenced to take this journey. It starts off showing these young men leaving their families behind with nothing but a backpack and the clothes on their back. With these supplies, they fly to Guatemala and make their way by small bus to a remote village.

They develop a random payment system in order to imitate the financial uncertainty a day laborer faces. On some days, the young men make nothing and some days they make up to $9. It all depends on what number they draw out of a hat. When they arrive at the village, they take out a loan from a local lending service in order to take care of immediate needs, such as renting a small hut in a rural village, seeds to plant crops, and other necessities with the intention of using their $1/day wage to pay back the loan by the end of the trip. We follow the group's daily life as they brave the elements, fight through sickness, are malnourished, and come to really understand what it is like to live in true poverty. 

living on one dollar 2While living in the community and becoming closer to the people there, they start to interview people about: the long term effects of poverty; missing opportunities like higher education; not having money for health care and therefore, being sick as a constant condition; and being tired/lacking motivation due to lack of nutrition. The documentary gives us some glimpses of the many obstacles people face but also teaches us about the the ingenuity people posses and how micro financing can make huge differences in people’s lives. 

For more information, visit the movie's website:

Why We Love It:

The documentary is tastefully done with respect to the people in the communities and does a great job of bringing attention to the pressing global issue of poverty. The four young men do all the shooting and are experiencing first-hand the hardships of poverty themselves. It is extremely interesting to watch as the group manages to live on a dollar per day and simulates the conditions associated with poverty themselves instead of just reporting about it.

We highly recommend this documentary as it gives statistics a back seat and gives you a personal account of the impact that poverty has on the lives of people every day. 

5 stars


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