Rainn Wilson & The New Recruits
Three idealistic excursionists aim to inform other cultures about capitalism in a new documentary
Money talks: The travelers faced difficult challenges head-on in an attempt to spread ideas about what they believe can help end world poverty
Ironbound Films, the award-winning film, television, and new media production company based in Garrison, is screening its most recent documentary at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Peekskill on August 1. Called The New Recruits, it tells the story of three young, idealistic missionaries — of money — who spend a year spreading the gospel of capitalism to poor countries around the world.
“It’s sort of a combination of The Apprentice and Slumdog Millionaire,” says Jeremy Newberger, who coproduced and codirected the film with his partners, Seth Kramer and Daniel A. Miller.
The film, which was funded by PBS and aired on the network in June, follows three so-called social entrepreneurs who believe capitalism can end global poverty by providing critical goods and services, and charging for them in order to run sustainable businesses. The subjects are fellows at the Acumen Fund, a major investor in these projects. They undergo two months of training, then spend 10 months in the field trying to market start-up companies — which sell drip irrigation in Pakistan, LED lights in India, and toilet service in Kenya — to a customer base that earns less than four dollars a day.
The film, narrated by Rainn Wilson of The Office, explores this “new alternative to charity,” Newberger says. “Groups like Acumen provide what they call ‘patient capital.’ It’s an investment that lasts five to seven years and also provides the expertise of these fellows. They need patience to wait for these ventures to start showing return on investment.”
The subjects are fish out of water — a woman in male-dominated India, a southern Christian in Pakistan — and their work is far from instantly successful. “The challenge, of course, is that poor people have to buy in to the idea,” Newberger says. “Social entrepreneurship has not been a series of feel-good success stories, and we had no interest in representing it that way. Acumen was very brave in giving us total access. We get to see the whole process — warts and all.”
To see a trailer for the film, go to www.thenewrecruits.com.