Bonsai People: The Vision of Muhammad Yunus


Ideal only for the junior-high classroom, Holly Mosher’s dull-as-dishwater doc fudges the line between socially progressive message-spreading and suspicious hagiography in its celebration of Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Working to alleviate poverty, the septuagenarian Yunus and his pioneering work for Grameen Bank established the idea of modern “micro-credit,” or small loans for impoverished borrowers (usually women) with little credit history or collateral. Boasting an unbelievable rate of return in the high 90th percentile, Grameen empowers budding entrepreneurs and lends to one out of every thousand people on the planet, which ain’t no thrill ride in cinematic form. Framing the slices-of-life moments between the rural lender and his thankful new debtors are Yunus’s talking-head pontifications and on-screen quotes—along with Mosher’s superfluous commentary, as earnest as a Sally Struthers infomercial. Mosher egregiously buries her lead by quickly referencing in the final five minutes that the 2010 Danish film Caught in Micro Debt accused Yunus of bloodsucking and that the Bangladeshi finance minister has since pushed Yunus out of his own bank. Not only would further addressing this controversy have made a stronger, more relevant case, but the film also wouldn’t be so painfully inert.