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Gazette Premium Content Compassion's '58' film focuses on global poverty

MARK BARNA Updated: October 7, 2011 at 12:00 am

Workitu struggles to support her four children in drought-ravaged Ethiopia by selling firewood. But her meager income barely puts a dent in her family’s devastating poverty.

Her children have grown accustomed to going to bed hungry, though the youngest sometimes cry themselves to sleep because of hunger pangs.

Workitu’s plight is one of a handful of stories about poverty told in the Christian documentary “58,” showing Thursday at Cinemark Carefree Circle in Colorado Springs.

“58” was shot in nine countries by the production company Prospect Arts and was financed by Compassion International, a Springs-based worldwide child development organization that partnered with nine other Christian groups to create the film. The movie’s title is drawn from Isaiah 58, a chapter about helping the downtrodden and putting aside pious pretensions.

The Bible chapter and film are “a whole lot of verbs” about helping poverty-stricken people, said Scott C. Todd, senior ministry adviser at Compassion International.

The 70-minute film will be shown Thursday in 51 movie theatres across America, followed by online distribution through WingClips Cinema and iTunes. Churches can rent “58” for private screenings.

“58” examines worldwide extreme poverty by profiling indigent families and Christian leaders willing to help, most of whom have connections to Compassion International. Wess Stafford, Compassion president and CEO, makes several appearances in the film.

But “58,” which cost $2 million and was shot between January 2008 and February 2010, is more than a bullhorn for Compassion’s global fight against poverty. The film contains National Geographic-like elements that explore culture and the human condition in remote world regions.

Hidden cameras take viewers into India’s sex trade operations. Gang life in Brazil gets an up-close-and-personal treatment. A family living in a Nairobi, Kenya, shanty town, where cheap drugs proliferate and raw sewage runs in the dirt streets, is profiled.

Perhaps the most riveting segment involves “wage slaves” in an illegal quarry near Bangalore, India.

Sanjiv and Shivamma took out a loan from the quarry owner to pay for their daughter’s dowry in exchange for the family’s work breaking stones in the scorching pit. But the couple didn’t realize the quarry loans carry outrageously high interest rates. The indigent parents and most of their five children will likely spend their entire lives in the quarries paying off their $600 debt, co-director Tony Neeves says in the film’s narration.

“I have dreams, but they will never come true,” the oldest boy, perhaps 12, says of his indentured servitude. “So let me have no dreams at all.”

Neeves says of “58”: “It is a recognition that God’s heart beats for the poor and oppressed.”

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