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Why Poverty? documentary series: Park Avenue

Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney strikes again with a hard-hitting documentary highlighting the unfair wealth divide in the US by focusing on Park Avenue; one of the country’s most famous streets where the super rich and super poor live a mere few miles apart.

The combined wealth of the people living in the apartments on 740 Park Avenue in Manhattan is enough to solve many a problem in the world but instead the owners of the home that currently houses more billionaires than any other building in the United States could not care less about issues such as educating the poor, fresh drink water where it is needed or feeding those who are starving to death. In fact, they do not even care enough to tip their own doormen.  

In stark contrast to this, when you drive less than five miles to the north, you will see the other side of  Park Avenue – this end is located in the South Bronx. Unfortunately for the people who grow up here the odds are very likely that they too one day will belong to the nearly 40% in this area that live on an income below the poverty line.

Through the prism of these two so very different yet adjacent places, film director Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, Client 9) asks: ‘How likely is it that a person born on one side of this street moves to the other side?’ Exploring in effect the question whether America is still the land of hope and opportunity it once was made out to be.

By taking us on a tour through the US’ political system, and especially its lobbying industry, he shows us how money is power and how it currently only serves to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. These, you could argue, are issues we do know about but Gibney‘s style of presenting a story in combination with the harsh words of the academics, political scientists, psychologists, former lobbyists and even a former doorman at 740 Park Avenue, make the film a compelling and shocking watch which leaves not much room for optimism for America’s (and perhaps the world’s) future.


Park Avenue – Money, Power and the American Dream will air tonight (27 Nov) as part of the worldwide Why Poverty? series on BBC4’s documentary programme Storyville at 10pm, for further details please check out the website here. In case you missed it, the documentary is also still available on BBC iPlayer until 12 December.

If you live outside the UK then please check the Why Poverty website to see on which local channel you can watch the series.

You can read more on the Why Poverty? initiative in our earlier blog regarding these documentaries by clicking here.

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