Enjoy Poverty is a documentary filmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo by Dutch artist Renzo Martens.
The film shows how poverty is probably the most important ‘natural’ resource in Congo, as development aid brings in the country more money (1.9 billion US dollars) than the exploitation of natural resources such as copper and diamonds. But that’s not all, the film shows that the ones benefiting from this poverty in Congo are not the poor. Their situation stays the same year after year. The ones benefiting are the photographers paid to take pictures of starving children and the ‘corporate’ humanitarian organizations and also the rich people who are being paid high salaries to stop poverty. In the end it is no one’s interest to really eradicate poverty.
There are two reasons why this documentary is important for me. First one is that after watching it, something particular stood in my mind, that is the fact that professional photographers are highly paid to photograph starving children. But when Martens teaches local wedding photographers to take such photos themselves and to benefit themselves from their own poverty, no one wants to buy their photos because they are not good enough. Makes you wonder why do western societies need to see such images in high quality photos in which the photographer pays attention to composition and colour? This question inspired me to research photojournalism and its impact on people.
A second reason is that I think it is a mind opening, blunt and strong film. When it was shown at IDFA (International Documentary Festival Amsterdam) in 2008 many found it cynical. I found its presupposed cynicism to be a needed slap in the face of a Western society that sleeps well at night pretending to care and try to change something for African countries. The film has its absurd moments but isn’t pretending to help the poor while getting rich yourself even more absurd? Towards the end, Martens tells one of the poor people from a village that his situation is not going to change, that he should just enjoy life as it is, to enjoy poverty.
You can see Renzo Martens talking about this film here.