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The Independent Critic

Dan Parris, Rob Lehr, David Peterka
Dan Parris
92 Mins.

 "Give a Damn?" Review 
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One of several films to have its world premiere at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, Give a Damn? is about three friends - two Christian idealists and one militant atheist who agree to attempt to live in extreme poverty, on $1.25 a day, across three continents in an effort to discover their responsibility to the poor. Give a Damn? follows the three young men as they leave the comfort of their St. Louis homes and hitchhike across the U.S., backpack across Europe and travel to Africa. It's in Africa where the film takes a catastrophic turn when two of the three survive a plane crash that takes the lives of two others including the pilot, a long-time missionary. As a result of this catastrophic turn of events, all three must end up fighting in their own ways to finish this extraordinary journey.

Give a Damn? is, at its essence, a missionary film that serves as a call to action whether or not you identify yourself as Christian or, for that matter, even believe in God. While two of the participants in this project clearly do identify as Christian, a fact not hidden throughout the film, what these three do extraordinary right with this film is to create a common thread between the three of them and, as a result, this helps to create a common thread with each community that they visit. This common thread isn't always pleasant as there are tensions at times between these three, especially early in the film, and these three find themselves regularly humbled throughout their travels due to the steps they must often take merely to survive on $1.25 a day. "Begging" is certainly not simply an American phenomenon, and neither is the shame that often accompanies it.

Give a Damn? becomes less compelling, however, the more the film is allowed to focus on these personalities rather than the film's bigger issues. This intensifies after the plane crash occurs, as we experience more about the crash's impact on these individuals rather than, perhaps, expanding this picture to examine what it would have been like if they'd really been living in extreme poverty. At times, the conversation feels a little "poor me" when, in fact, if these three young men had been truly poverty stricken they'd likely not have been able to make the trip and quality healthcare would have been out of the question. It's not that self-examination and testimony is a bad thing - it's not. It simply feels like it's during these scenes that the film begins to lose its focus.

Yet, one must also acknowledge that it is this unexpected turn of events for these three young men that makes the film so incredibly intriguing and emotionally resonant. What began as a look at the universal issue of poverty turns inward and becomes a profoundly moving documentary about three young men setting out to gain a better understanding of poverty and learning even greater lessons about life, about faith and about themselves.

Rob Lehr's lensing is straightforward yet effective, while the original music from Ian Perry helps companion both the film's intimate and larger than  life moments.

Give a Damn? is just beginning its festival run. For more information about the film, visit the Give a Damn? website.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic