It’s Basic (2023) Film Review
Poverty is not a culture. Poverty is just not having enough money.
This is something a father says as he explains his situation to the audience in the hard-to-watch documentary It’s Basic. Director Marc Levin follows up on a subject he’s been observing for years. The economic crisis in America is a reality that normally you wouldn’t evidence elsewhere. Poverty in America becomes a reality, only if you dig deep, past the news and the media, and past the vanilla filter of the American Dream that’s obviously the first thing you see when looking at the most powerful nation in the world.
Levin’s film not only works as a device to see the real side of America and its questionably managed COVID-19 situation. It’s Basic is a reflection of an idea’s consequences, one that many didn’t care for because they didn’t believe in all the actors: What if you gave money to people, didn’t ask questions, and there were no strings attached? The Guaranteed Income program exists because of an idealistic approach to the real issue, and while some questions should be asked about America’s current state, the documentary doesn’t simply focus on the program’s concept. Instead, Levin puts the camera in the household, and shoots those whose stories really matter.
The documentary shows those who’ve been affected by the program, have found a way to properly use the money, and those who could use a better version of it. Levin doesn’t scrutinize the victims of the system because this isn’t that kind of film. It’s not a social commentary movie. This is just a compilation of testimonies of people society has left behind for them to survive on themselves.
Levin also makes sure to include many figures in the party. He truly does the job at making the film about the basic concept of survival, no matter where you were born, and no matter the color of your skin. Poverty, at this point, is sadly much more primitive than we can imagine. There’s no racial tension, or argument here. The only solution is to look forward and understand the necessity of a Basic Income Program. Detractors will always exist, and yes, part of the implementation includes listening to them and their questions.
If you find optimism in the words of those who have managed to survive with a check of $500, then it’s because the message has been delivered. Levin’s film isn’t spiritual or uplifting. This is more of a glance into the reality of a population we don’t often observe and needs to be taken into account when discussing progress.
The only issue with the film, is that it doesn’t recognize some of the questions of the program. It’s ideal when implemented in a controlled environment. But America’s reality includes its rotten underbelly of drug use and crime, that’s also part of the surroundings where honest people try to survive. We need to observe those actors too and find their place in the equation. It’s Basic is a necessary document that exposes the good in the program. But as always, you should go further when trying to make sense of a situation like this one. Poverty also includes those who take advantage of the noble aspect of programs like these, and what can you do about them? Unfortunately, it’s a non-answered question.