Living on One Dollar

Movie review by
Grace Montgomery, Common Sense Media
Living on One Dollar Movie Poster Image
Earnest, inspiring docu shows realities of rural poverty.
  • NR
  • 2013
  • 56 minutes

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Positive messages

Gives a face to poverty and shows that impoverished people in other countries have the same dreams and goals as us: to have enough food, educate their children, work hard, and improve their lives. Empathy, integrity, and perseverance are major themes.

Positive role models & representations

The young men who created the documentary are role models for educating the world about poverty. Antonio shares everything he has with those less fortunate and helps others learn to help themselves. They demonstrate compassion, humility, and gratitude.


Some harsh realities of poverty, including talk of people becoming deathly ill and not being able to afford health care and discussion of people dying in a hurricane.



Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Living on One Dollar is an inspiring documentary created by four college kids to show what it's like to live in poverty in rural Central America. Although there's almost no iffy content (only one use of "ass"), the film does illustrate some harsh and disturbing realties of poverty that may not be appropriate for very young kids. Children are shown as lethargic from hunger and covered in flea bites; families have to decide between medical care and feeding their families; and one of the filmmakers becomes ill with giardia and E. coli. But this inspiring, educational, and well-put-together documentary is a great way to teach older kids about the world.

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What's the story?

In LIVING ON ONE DOLLAR, four college friends set off to rural Guatemala to understand what it's like to live in extreme poverty. The four attempt to live off only one dollar a day each for two months with little resources, living in a dirt floor hut and growing radishes to supplement their meager finances. Along the way, the group befriends and interviews local villagers and learns the difficult choices they have to make every day, such as choosing between sending a child to school or feeding their families. As they're plagued by harsh weather, illness, and hunger, they also discover the ingenuity and dedication that's helping their new friends improve their lives.

Is it any good?

At times the filmmakers' eagerness and earnestness comes across as a bit condescending and coming from a place of white privilege. But Living on One Dollar is mainly an inspiring, thought-provoking film that really brings home the realities of living in extreme poverty. The film does a good job showing the harsh conditions that rural Guatemalans face, but it also humanizes them, demonstrating that even though their daily lives are very different from many of ours, they still have the same basic hopes, goals, and dreams. The documentary also nicely explains the idea of microfinance loans and shows many villagers empowering themselves and improving their lives.

This is a really great film for introducing kids to themes of poverty and finance without being too harsh or too whitewashed, bringing home the amount of privilege we live with every day. It's an inspiring film that should motivate anyone to get out there and help those who are less fortunate.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the premise of Living on One Dollar. Could you live off one dollar a day? 

  • What similarities are there between your daily life and the daily lives of the children shown in the film? What are the differences? What could you do to help those less fortunate than you?

  • How does Living on One Dollar promote compassion, empathy, and perseverance? How do the college students learn and demonstrate humility, integrity, and gratitude? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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