Over the last few weeks and a couple of months the stock market suffered a major drop in value, which could dramatically affect the American economy (source: CNBC). This makes me wonder about the similarities it shares with the catalyst of the Great Depression that started in 1929 with the stock market crash. Nationwide poverty can be a horrendous experience for everyone if the unemployment rate continues to rise, and the nation’s financial stability continues to decline. People are afraid of losing their income and a sense of financial stability for survival. With the unstable economy that is hitting new lows in a cataclysmic combination with the hurricane season coming to a close in south east portion of the country and the start of the enraging fire season in the west, it will only be a matter of time before the topic of nationwide poverty becomes the fearful focus of our conversation and thoughts. The subject has already encroached as the center point for this year’s political race as presidential nominees Senator Barack Obama (Democrat, Illinois) and Senator John McCain (Republican, Arizona) tout in their speeches about helping those who live on Main Street USA. People are concerned about having to sell all of their possessions and fear having to live on the street and eating scraps from a garbage can.

Now, I have chosen to open up the conversation of poverty and economic crisis for a reason. I know that the focus of this blog site has been designed to be about movies and film production, but let me explain the reason why I have temporarily moved off course. Every year on October 15th the non-profit organization Blog Action Day will choose a new topic for thousands of bloggers and editorial writers to join together in unison and offer a piece of their mind about a shared topic. The purpose of this annual event is to get the ball rolling on raising awareness about a serious social issue that we should be contemplating.

Last year’s topic at hand was about blogging for the environment, while this year we are focusing our efforts upon the economic dilemma of poverty. We are allowed to write about the subject in any way necessary as long as it ties in with the focus of the year’s theme. This freedom allows the writers to approach the topic at hand in the style that fits in with the environment of the blog or editorial that the author writes for. Since I write for a blog site that focuses upon movie reviews and the industry of film production I thought it would be fitting to do a review of the classic Italian neo-realism film The Bicycle Thief (1948).

A moment from 'The Bicycle Thief'

If you have never seen the film before, I would like to recommend it to you. It is a compelling story of a family man who will do just about anything to get a steady flow of income going to support his family. I am sure some of the stressful emotions that he is experiencing throughout the story could be related with our current economic roller coaster with the dramatic highs and lows of the Dow Jones on Wall Street. Numerous Americans have lost their jobs, their investments, their businesses, and their retirement funds. As we draw closer to the presidential election that will take place in three weeks there are a lot of questions of how our economy will be saved by a new governmental leader. With the current state of affairs in our county I think our condition may need more than just a single leader to turn things around. For the fictional leader character, Antonio Ricci, the dilemma of poverty is a state of fear that he believes he could at the local level with his own family. He must work as a day laborer riding around the city on a bicycle to various locales so that he could hang wall posters up for advertisement companies. He is hired for the job because he has been listed at the employment agency as an owner of reliable transportation: the bicycle. The only dilemma he faces at the start of the film would be the fearful truth that he had to sell the bicycle to a pawn shop as a temporary means to an end. He needed help to pay for a family debt, and selling the bike was the best way he could obtain a large portion of cash for it. Upon gaining employment as a poster hanger his wife sells their bed sheets to earn enough money to purchase the bicycle back from the pawn shop so that he could begin his job.

Living in southern California it is a necessity to have reliable transportation to arrive at work. There are a several groups of people I’m sure who exist as a lucky few to be able to work within a manageable distance from home. But for the rest of the southern region of the state it is filled with a herd of commuters who must travel quite a distance to get to work. In San Diego County we even have a term for the professors who teach at several different universities and colleges through the county: Freeway Fliers. Reliable transportation is a way of life for a lot of employees throughout the region, but we must suffer the high economic cost of automobile maintenance and fuel. This can be a financial burden for a lot of families who have to set aside large portions of their income just to afford the cost of getting to work and back home.

A moment from 'The Bicycle Thief'

In the film Antonio is the victim of an inevitable fear that we would easily share with him. His bicycle is stolen from right underneath him as he is in the midst of working on the job. He entails upon a foot chase after the thief, only to be misdirected by a possible accomplice who misdirects him down a different street allowing the robber to make for a clean get away. Now Antonio is left with a reliable means of transportation and the tremendous risk of losing his job and his only source of income for his family. In fear that he will no longer be a provider for his family he arrives at an immoral conclusion that he fears is the only option that is available to him. He attempts to steal another person’s bicycle in order to keep his job. Much to his dismay, Antonio is caught in the act of stealing, and is immediately arrested as his son horrifically witnesses. The film is a treasured classic for its moving story that displays the universal fear of being useless to one’s own family and community. From a production standpoint the film was made during the era of Italian movie making known as the Neorealism era when films were made on a shoestring budget with real locations and non-professional actors without any prior acting experience. It was the perfect story to be produced by these people at the time that it was completed. I believe that even today, sixty years after the film was originally released, its story speaks to millions of people who share the similar emotional pains that this father has experience in providing for his family.

Personally, I would not know how I could get involved with getting my hands dirty to directly turn the economy around. The reality of national economy is not my area of expertise. However, together as a nation we are able to elect leaders who are able to clean up the national budget and break the system of corporate crime that currently is being blamed for the financial mess that America is facing right now. On a local level we must look at our own personal spending and clean up our own dirty spending habits. Are we carelessly spending our own personal money instead of investing it wisely? Are we recklessly ruining our own personal careers in any way, shape or form? At the local level of our own families, jobs, and communities could we be of any help to add a layer of financial security? If our neighbors were to loser their primary source of income, would we be able to be of assistance for them?

Think upon the dilemma of national and localized poverty. What can we do to stabilize our current state of affairs? Once we are able to return to the point of being debt free, which is an obtainable goal, we are then at the point where we could reach out and share our excess resources with other countries that are in need of assistance.

Promotional trailer for The Bicycle Thief (1948)

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