Rice falls, kernel by kernel, onto a Guatemalan doll until the grain buries the small figure.
So begins, “What Will You Do?,” the short film that Oxfam at Virginia Tech produced for Campus MovieFest. The film placed within the top 16 in the world’s largest student film festival and is a contender for the Elfenworks Social Justice category and it’s $10,000 prize.
When Oxfam at VT’s president, Glen van der Molen, found out about Campus MovieFest, the senior economics major realized the festival’s potential to educate others about Oxfam’s mission of providing lasting solutions to hunger, poverty and social injustice.
The rice at the beginning of the film falls onto a doll, which van der Molen said symbolizes the nearly 1 billion people going to sleep hungry every night. The doll used originates from Guatemala and was given to Oxfam for the work they are doing there.
“The rice is falling slowly at first symbolizing the stereotype that poverty and hunger is about too little food and that we need to ramp up food production to feed people,” van der Molen said. “But at the end, when all the rice falls, it says that it's about power, which is the true dynamic for why people are hungry in the world.”
Danny Metcalf, vice president of Oxfam at Tech, said this aligns with Oxfam’s belief that available resources are not being used properly, resulting in inequalities.
“Poverty and hunger are not issues of a lack of resources in the world; there's enough to go around,” the senior political science major said. “Rice is a food source for much of the world. It was burying this essentially-helpless figure. The inequality is the cause of a lot of the social ills that we see.”
Van der Molen explained that industrial agriculture practices started as a way to feed more people around the world, but has created a lot of inefficiencies, resulting in inequalities and volatile markets.
Oxfam America and Oxfam branches in other countries try to remedy this through programs like “cash-for-work,” where, for example, engineers build wells with paid local workers. Another example gives communities money to buy from local farmers, which funnels resources into local economies.
The second half of the video shows hooded club members performing parkour-like moves while running through campus. Aishwarya Venkat, a biological systems engineer, said this is not what the club usually does.
“You know, all those groups that are kind of radical, all up in your face, the stereotypical social justice groups,” Venkat said. “We take a much more moderate approach.”
The club thought of a mockumentary parodying guerilla activists, but with Oxfam’s own spin on it. After sliding down stair rails, the club goes into empty classrooms and writes Oxfam’s symbol or “Be Humankind,” along with contact information for the organization.
“We go within the laws,” Van der Molen said. “It was us poking a jab at the stereotypes of activists being these guerilla, law-breaking citizens.”
While the club was optimistic, the success was a surprise. If their film wins the $10,000 prize, they plan on giving it all to Oxfam America’s philanthropic projects.
“We would donate that money to Oxfam America,” Metcalf said. “They would use it directly for relief and aid that are shocked by natural disasters or serious poverty.”
The Elfenworks Social Justice category will be announced in May 2013. Van der Molen said having Tech watch the film on YouTube would be a big support.