“Does spirituality enhance a society? Does it increase quality of life? Is modernization a negative in the betterment of society?”  

These are the questions that Canisius College students Katie Cosgrove and Tyler Kauffmann explored through their documentary The Poverty Parallel, screening Wednesday March 2 at 7pm in Science Hall Commons. The event, sponsored by the Canisius College Video Institute is FREE and open to the public! Following the screening there will be a panel discussion and refreshments. The documentary examines how westernization increases a desire for modernization in an underdeveloped nation and challenges what it means to be rich or poor. The documentary explores this parallel and the increase in westernization in Marangu, Tanzania through agricultural history, tourism in the Kilimanjaro region, and cultural shifts in society.

Watch the trailer.

The creation of this documentary took the creators on an interesting journey and caused them to question so much of what they thought they knew. “Working on this documentary has allowed me to develop a different worldview,” Cosgrove, a Canisius 2015 grad with Journalism and Religious Studies degrees, said, “I had never thought about a different definition of poverty or seeing our culture as poor.” Both Cosgrove and Kauffmann felt the importance of religion in this culture and how embedded it is in every aspect of these people’s lives. Seeing the stark difference between this culture and our own, Kauffman, a 2016 Canisius grad with DMA and Communication Studies degrees, said, “it was really interesting to see a different kind of faith that permeates all of society. Here (the U.S.), the secularization is very apparent and your religion isn’t often talked about in a formal setting.”

To hear the creators’ description of their experiences and goals for this documentary really illustrates their passion for this project:

Katie says:

“I really hope that this documentary breaks down some stereotypes that many Westerners have while thinking about Africa. I’ve noticed that not a lot of people have knowledge of the vast diversity in land, people and culture that exists in this continent; most usually just think about Africa as just Africa, and not the 54 countries that make it up. The typical description of Africa that I have heard from people with this stereotype is that it’s a barren desert land, spotted with huts, filled by a people with no knowledge of English and a lack of development. Our documentary really shows a contrast to that stereotype. Marangu, Tanzania, has the potential to be a world-renowned city and popular tourist destination for more than just climbing Kilimanjaro. Our goal for the documentary is to show the transition of this village with the increasing desire for modernization and how their perception is changing from being rich with faith to being poor financially.”


Tyler says:

“I went there with the mindset of creating this documentary, and I left with so much more. It was an incredible opportunity to learn first hand what it means to be a Western filmmaker in an Eastern, underdeveloped nation and the challenges – both technical and social – that come with it. To this day, I go back and visit the footage from the trip and it takes me back to the sights and sounds of Marangu. It’s really a dream-like feeling as I still try to wrap my head around the fact that here I am, sitting at my desk living like an American, while just months ago I was on the other side of the world gaining a new sense of what it means to be an American in a foreign land. Three weeks of time spent in Marangu seemed like it would be plenty of time to shoot footage and develop a story, but ten months later and hundreds of hours invested into this project I realize there’s never enough time. A story is as complex and rich as you want to make it, and despite numerous factors working against us, we hope to present a story that is as compelling, thought-provoking, and powerful as our personal experiences with the extraordinary people of Marangu, Tanzania.”

This is sure to be a film that will breakthrough boundaries in the minds of its audience and bring a greater awareness of the world around us. How lucky Canisius students are to have an opportunity to travel the world and have such enriching experiences! This adventure came to be through a course coordinated by Professor Timothy Wadkins, PhD, Professor James Oigara, PhD, The Institute of Global Study of Religion at Canisius College, and The Canisius College Video Institute, directed by Dr Barbara Irwin and Jamie O’Neil.

This documentary is a must see event for anyone interested in the relationship between cultural shifts and global social issues.