Toronto World Premiere: ‘Free Money’ Explores Whether A Nonprofit Charity Is “Playing God” With An Experiment In Universal Basic Income


In rural Kenya, $22 a month can go a long, long way. We’re talking a life-changing sum of money.

That figure is, in fact, the amount calculated by the nonprofit aid organization GiveDirectly as necessary to conduct an experiment in alleviating extreme poverty in the developing world. In 2018, the NGO launched a test case in a handful of carefully selected Kenyan villages, offering adult residents $22 a month in free cash transfers, no strings attached, to do with as they chose. Not just for a single year – for 12 years.

The documentary Free Money, making its world premiere on Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival, explores the real-world impact of that experiment on villagers in the hamlet of Kugutu. American filmmaker Lauren DeFilippo joined forces with Kenyan director Sam Soko to make the film. DeFilippo originated the project by securing permission from GiveDirectly to film their bold endeavor.

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