April 2, 2018  (Web Review)

Footprint

(2016) 82 min. In English, Swahili, Urdu, Tagalog & Spanish w/English subtitles. DVD: $89: public libraries, $395: colleges & universities. Women Make Movies (www.wmm.com). PPR.

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

The threat to global stability posed by overpopulation and the escalating demand on limited resources is the subject of Valentina Canavesio’s documentary, which uses specific national examples in the Philippines, Mexico, Kenya, Pakistan, and elsewhere to demonstrate how population is growing at astronomical rates in areas where poverty and scarcity of food and water are already endemic problems. Footprint features interviews of experts, who address the severity of the situation, and people on the ground—including a Filipino activist who publicly berates the Catholic hierarchy for church doctrine that forbids the use of artificial birth control; a Kenyan mother who struggles to feed her children; and a group of women in Lahore who aim to educate others about family planning, even when it conflicts with traditional thinking. The film also looks at the United States, where declining birth rates are sometimes characterized as a reverse problem, and considers the impact of the zero population growth movement that was sparked by the publication of Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb in 1968, although commentators point out that various cultural factors at work in America have depressed the number of births. In its more sober, analytical way, Footprint is almost as alarmist as Ehrlich’s sensational doom-prophesying bestseller. Although unlikely to have the same impact of the book in its day, this is certainly an informative treatment of a global problem that demands urgent action, even though—as Thomas Malthus argued—it might be impervious to human solution. A strong optional purchase. Aud: C, P. (F. Swietek)