Documentary Film Review – The Line: Poverty in America

I’ve been laid up for the last two weeks since a tumble on the ice messed up my right knee. I’m not in much pain, but it’s my driving leg, so I’ve been out of work and spending a lot of time on the couch with my leg elevated. It has given me lots of time to read, watch movies, fold laundry, and do other sedentary tasks like prepping my Christmas cards. While I’m eager to get back to work, I’ve managed to enjoy myself as well.

One of the movies I finally got around to is The Line: Poverty in America. It’s a short documentary about the working poor in America, made by a non-profit called Sojourners. It’s only 45 minutes long, and is available on Amazon Prime and YouTube for free. The film defines the poverty line as less than $25,000/year for a family of four, and quotes the U.S. Census Bureau in claiming that “1 in 4 young children live in poverty… in the richest nation on earth.”

The point of the film is to reveal the struggles that cause people to become poor or which keep them from rising above the poverty line. They site trauma and violence that make people feel hopeless and disenfranchised. Changes in the economy, health, and the physical environment (eg: natural disasters) are also examined. The filmmakers argue that the working poor are so busy just trying to survive that they don’t have the resources to try and improve themselves and their situation.

An overarching theme of this short film is that hope is the only thing that keeps people trying. I believe this. I believe in hope, and that a life without hope isn’t going anywhere good. But what this movie really fails to address is what can be done to rectify the situation. For someone already concerned about poverty in America, there isn’t much to gain from watching this. When I finished the movie, I tried to figure out who they made it for, and where it could be beneficial. I decided that this would be useful for helping high school and college kids understand that poverty is about a lot more than laziness and drug abuse. It would be useful in opening young eyes and starting some good discussions, and its short length and free availability make it a good fit for a class as well.

My overall impression is that this is a well-made short documentary about the working poor in America. If you are looking for something like that, The Line is very accessible.

Have you seen The Line? What did you think?

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