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Doc Shows Microfinance in America

By  March 30, 2011

When you think of microfinance, you probably think of women and families in...

the developing world receiving loans from Western donors - which is pretty fair - but could it work in the United States? 

That question is the subject of a new documentary, To Catch a Dollar: Muhammad Yunus Banks on America, which follows the Nobel Peace Prize Winner as he launches the first American branch of the Grameen Bank in Queen's, New York.

The star of To Catch a Dollar (titled after the axiom, "you need a dollar to catch a dollar"), Dr. Yunus, started the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in the late '70s, early '80s as a "bank for the poor" - to learn more about microfinance, click here and scroll down - and is credited for starting a worldwide microfinancing model of development. Today, many organizations offer microloans and microcredit, and Dr. Yunus continues to be the face of the movement for many people. And this foray into microlending in the United States is... well, it's pretty cool. 

Of course, there are politics involved. After decades of growth - and a fair share of government scrutiny - the Bengali government fired Dr. Yunus from his post at the Grameen Bank, citing legal violations and an age limit on his position, which he and the bank are currently fighting. 

As a source of support - both for Dr. Yunus and for the ideals and work showcased in the film - screenings of the film are being held in cities across the United States on Thursday, March 31 featuring a taped interview with Dr. Yunus. People can even pledge to see the film and proceeds will benefit women entrepreneurs in a region and business area of your choosing.

There are no screenings - charitable or otherwise - scheduled anywhere in Canada, but hopefully some will crop up soon. (You can try requesting a screening here.)

Whether you're a fan of microfinance and Dr. Yunus or not, the documentary is probably worth seeing, if for no other reason than as debate fodder. So, will you be checking it out? 

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Zalina Alvi

Zalina grew up in Toronto and began her career in journalism at the York University campus newspaper. Before joining Verge in 2010, she worked for a documentary festival, a non-profit organization and various magazines and newspapers. Zalina has had some eclectic travel experiences, including reporting for a newspaper on the island of Molokai in Hawaii.

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