Faces of Poverty, an awareness-raising film project, set out to with the following goal: raise awareness, cultivate compassion, and foster engagement.  Did it succeed?  A young researcher from U. C. Irvine set out to study the film and said it did.  

Our Film vs. Other Documentaries at Artivist

3.76 (on scale of 1 to 5) film made me mad.
4.59 film made me sad.
4.56 I would recommend.
3.54 I am going to make a change.
The film made people madder (3.76 vs 2.91) and sadder (4.59 vs 3.19) than many of the other films at a film festival where it was studied. By comparison, our film was more likely to be recommended to others (4.56 vs 3.76) and was more likely to result in a yes answer to ‘will you change your behavior’ (3.54 vs 2.81). Quality ratings were higher than average in every area, from direction and camera work to acting and score, to film and set quality. Other results weren’t statistically significant still interested us, such as how the film was seen as both more optimistic and more pessimistic, less entertaining and more enjoyable, less new and unique but with more artistic value, as compared against other films. People were inspired and thought it expressed a clear vision. The researcher also asked viewers how they might change behavior as a result of watching. Responses included: get involved, help out homeless, donate clothes/food to homeless people/shelters, by not ignoring the homeless, will start volunteering again, volunteer-do something-anything, I will be volunteering this winter for homeless-seriously. 

In 2008, we had one of our interns contact representatives in Washington about providing them with this film and other resources they might find useful in their own existing anti-poverty and hope-raising efforts. By September, eighty-nine members of the House and Senate had answered our query and received copies of our film. 

Our thanks to Rebekah Dibble of U.C. Irvine for sharing her findings. A complete report is available here [PDF].

Critical Acclaim

“It is disappointing that this powerful film has not received the attention that it deserves. If it were widely viewed, for example on Front Line or some other public television program, it would raise the country’s awareness of domestic poverty and inequality, and viewers would come away with a greater sense of urgency to combat these problems”. -Prof. William Julius Wilson, Harvard University

Select Festivals and Screenings

The film Faces of Poverty – which we will make available to you if you are putting on an awareness event – seems to have nine lives. Four years after completion, the film was still being screened at festivals including GLOBAL WAKE-UP Festival in Chicago (October 28 – 29) and Swan Film Festival in Perth Australia (September 25), where it took the Crystal Swan award for ‘Best Feature Film, Short Film, Video Clip or Documentary’.  Mr. Christopher Vas, Assistant Director of Workforce Innovation, Tertiary, Skills & Productivity Group with the Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workforce Relations, represented The Elfenworks Foundation and accepted the award on our behalf. His moving remarks and the film’s important message inspired the audience. One member vowed to provide food daily to a homeless man she passes routinely.  How did it come about that we would be represented by a member of the Australian government? We had already been working together. Mr. Vas was working with a consortium of countries to look at their domestic poverty situation, and we’d been sharing information.  Summary:

Christopher Vas Receives Crystal Swan Award

Christopher Vas Receives    Crystal Swan Award

  • Multiple airings on Starfish TV!
  • Winner, Crystal Swan Award (best film) – Swan Film Festival, Perth Australia, 2011
  • Official Selection – GLOBAL WAKE-UP Festival, Chicago Illinois, 2011
  • Screening- Catholic Campus Ministry-University of Texas, Brownsville Poverty Awareness Week 2009
  • Screening – Sisters of St. Joseph of Oranges year-long “Moving Pictures: Friday Night Film Series” 2008
  • Official Selection – Calgary Fringe Film Festival, Calgary Canada, 2007
  • Official Selection – Artivist Film Festival, Los Angeles California, 2007

About the Film: Faces of Poverty

A singular experience for all who take the time to watch it,
for once a problem has been seen, it cannot be unseen.

One of our earliest collaborative efforts – completed in 2007 – was Faces of Poverty. Recognizing film as an effective medium for change, The Elfenworks Foundation worked in collaboration with the San Damiano Foundation (SDF) in an effort to show the human face of poverty, telling stories taken from the millions of poor around us – those we perhaps hear about but may never see – in hopes of inspiring viewers to act. The film melded footage from three SDF films with startling statistics and memorable quotations compiled by The Elfenworks Foundation. An official selection of many film Festivals and an international ‘best film winner, Faces of Poverty has been screened in Calgary, Los Angeles, Chiago, Washington DC (2/19/08 – Artivist), and Perth, Australia. The film received its Los Angeles premiere screening at 9:15 PM on Friday, November 9th, 2007 in the Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, in Los Angeles California, as part of the Artivist Film Festival. The film was given its international screen debut in the Calgary Fringe Film Festival session “Those that Have and Those that Have Not” at 4:30 on Thursday August 16th 2007. It was also screened on Starfish TV!

Film Summary 

Completed before the Great Recession, when American poverty was concentrated primarily in nine major cities, this film documents poverty in three of those cities. Featuring scenes from three feature-length documentaries on domestic poverty in Philadelphia, Detroit and Los Angeles, as well as new, never-before-seen material, Faces of Poverty weaves a number of heartbreaking stories into a compelling portrait of poverty in America, where so many live without hope in the shadow of abundance and ease. The Faces of Poverty hopes to inspire viewers to pitch in–because everyone can do something.”  

“We talk about the ‘poor’ but we hardly ever meet any poor people. Here, you will meet actual poor people, learn their names, hear their stories, study their faces. You will see innocent children who still hold hope, a neglected grandmother living in a mission, a young mother who lives in her car with her children, and a homeless veteran whose positive outlook – despite having no legs – will astound you. From the safety of your seat, you’ll meet folks whose paths you’d be unlikely to cross, in your own daily life:  unemployed auto workers, recovering addicts, homeless women, and many others imprisoned by chronic poverty, living in isolated pockets of despair and want, awaiting that glimmer of hope we can bring, should we all choose to change the domestic landscape for the better of those most easily forgotten.  Interested? Contact us about obtaining a screening copy for your awareness event.

  • Produced by The San Damiano Foundation in Association with The Elfenworks Foundation
  • Director Gerard Straub; Consulting co-producer Lauren Speeth; Editor Chad Mochrie
  • © 2007 and Distributed by The San Damiano Foundation P.O. Box 1794 – Burbank, CA 91507…
    Running time: 44 minutes

About the Artivist Film Festival
Since its inception in 2004, the Artivist Film Festival has showcased 223 films representing more than 45 countries. Artivist has reached millions of people with its public relations campaign and has received endorsements from various community leaders including Senator Barbara Boxer, Congressman and Presidential Nominee Dennis Kucinich, and the UNITED NATIONS.


About the Calgary Fringe Film Festival
The Calgary Fringe Festival runs August 11th – 20th, 2006, in the heart of Calgary’s cultural corridor – 17th Avenue, and at the EPCOR Centre for Performing Arts. This non-juried, uncensored artistic event will feature raw and innovative local, national, and international theatrical productions alongside street performers, international film presentations, food and arts & crafts vendors, visual art displays, music, outdoor stage events – and MORE! As they have done for over fifty years, Fringe Festivals around the world continue to generate atmospheres of spontaneity, collaboration, and risk-taking. The creators of the festival are excited to bring this ongoing artistic legacy to Calgary and invite festival-goers from around the world to experience Alberta’s tremendous artistic community in action.

About the GLOBAL WAKE UP Film Festival
Chicago’s GLOBAL WAKE UP is a Festival of Film, Literature, and Creative Arts organized and presented by the United Nations Association-USA Greater Chicago Chapter in support of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. The GLOBAL WAKE-UP Film Festival seeks to educate and enhance public awareness, as well as honor those who have sought to address the United Nations’ eight anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals, and other human condition improvements in developing countries.

About the Swan Film Festival
An annual spring film festival, Swan Film Festival is held in Midland Perth, Western Australia in September, in conjunction with the City of Swan. In 2011, it was held from the 22nd of September to the 25th of September. The festival showcases local films, Australian films, and International ones, and includes full length features, as well as shorts, documentaries and music video clips.

About Partnering with the San Damiano Foundation
We became aware of the work of The San Damiano Foundation, whose motto is to “put the power of film at the service of the poor” through an introduction by our mutual friend cinematographer Dan Coplan. Director Gerry Straub agreed to work with us, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the result. We then supported the SDF on another film, focusing on celebrated peace activist Fr. John Dear, author of over twenty books on the subject of peace, chaplain for families during the 9/11 World Trade Center tragedy. The result includes disturbing images of war as well as controversial political stances, but the overarching message remains clear: peace is the way. Since that time, our commitment to peace has continued to grow, see www.elfenworks.org/peace for details.

The following nonprofits were featured in the film The Faces of Poverty:

Capuchin Soup Kitchen – http://www.cskdetroit.org/ 1820 Mt. Elliott Street / Detroit, MI 48207 ~ (313) 579-2100 ext. 215 The Capuchin Soup kitchen provides for more than simple material needs, but acts as a healing force in the spirits and lives of the individuals serves. The CSK works to restore self-esteem, motivation, and meaning. The Capuchin Soup Kitchen was featured in the film Faces of Poverty, jointly produced with The San Damiano Foundation. Scenes show the steps taken to provide new skills restoring independence and dignity.

St Francis Inn – www.stfrancisinn.org is a Franciscan community located in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Their community is composed of religious and lay people who live and minister among the poor and homeless. They seek to empower persons to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty and address structural injustices. Their website informs visitors about leading causes of homelessness including: lack of affordable housing and inadequate housing assistance; poverty from low-paying jobs and minimal government assistance; mental Illness; lack of affordable health care; domestic violence; substance Abuse. across the street from the St. Francis Inn is a treatment facility under their auspices, which helps those suffering from some of these root causes.

Union Rescue Mission – www.urm.org ~ 545 South San Pedro Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013 ~ (213) 347-6300. The Union Rescue Mission provides shelter and addiction treatment facilities in the Los Angeles skid row area. Its activities and facilities were depicted in the film Faces of Poverty, jointly produced with The San Damiano Foundation.