Free Money

Free Money

USA | 2022 | 75 min. | Sam Soko, Lauren DeFilippo

A deep dive into the concept of universal basic income and who it truly benefits, as American charity GiveDirectly sets its sights on the Kenyan village of Kogutu to try out their experiment with the hopes of changing the world.

Free Money is a provocative documentary that explores the consequences of a universal basic income (UBI) experiment in the Kenyan village of Kogutu. The film follows the arrival of representatives from GiveDirectly, a U.S.-based charity, who introduce a program that gives every adult member of the village a monthly UBI payment of $22 for a 12-year test phase. The documentary examines the impact of this initiative on the villagers' lives and their community over three years, exploring the intended and unintended consequences of the project. Filmmakers Lauren DeFilippo and Sam Soko deliver a powerful portrayal of the big ideas being launched by GiveDirectly, contrasting them with the daily lives of the villagers whose lives are being changed for better or worse. We meet GiveDirectly co-founder Michael Faye, who believes that putting money directly into the hands of the poor is the solution to alleviating poverty. However, journalist Larry Madowo, who grew up in a Kenyan village and has seen countless charities come and go, remains skeptical of the project. Free Money is a compelling documentary that raises important questions about the effectiveness of aid programs, the role of NGOs in poverty alleviation, and the long-term impacts of UBI initiatives.

—Nancy Pappas

  • Director: Sam Soko, Lauren DeFilippo
  • Premiere Status: US
  • Country: USA, Kenya
  • Year: 2022
  • Running Time: 75 min.
  • Producer: Amanda Pollak
  • Screenplay: Sam Soko, Lauren DeFilippo
  • Cinematographers: Vanessa Carr, Nyasha Kadandara, Wambui 'Bo' Muigai
  • Editors: Ryan Mullins, Raúl Santos, Mila Aung-Thwin
  • Music: Eduardo Aram
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Filmography: Soko: Softie (2020); DeFilippo: Red Heaven (2020)
  • Language: English, Swahili, Luo
  • Has Subtitles: Yes
  • International Sales: Dogwoof