A documentary film on a grass-roots method of combating global poverty, made with the help of 2007 Senior High graduate Stan Parker, will have its Montana premiere Thursday night in Billings.
The free showing of "Banking on Trust" will start at 7 p.m. at the historic Babcock Theatre at Second Avenue North and North Broadway.
The 37-minute documentary showcases the impact of "microfinancing" on three communities in Argentina. Microfinancing involves getting small loans at little or no interest into the hands of people who want to start small businesses in impoverished areas of the world. Recipients are typically women in developing countries.
Parker, a 2011 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., got involved in the film because three other Pepperdine students he was friends with had started a microfinance club that in the past two years has donated more than $10,000 to small lenders in 40 countries.
They got the idea of making a documentary as a way of spreading the word about microfinancing, and they chose to focus on Argentina because they had connections there.
They also enlisted the help of Parker, who was completing his degree in journalism at the time and who had an interest in films going back to Senior High, where some of his friends were involved in moviemaking. He had also spent his sophomore year studying in Argentina.
The fifth partner was a friend then studying film at American University in Washington, D.C. It was a learning experience for all of them.
"I would say it was a collaboration," Parker said. "We were all figuring stuff out the whole way."
Microfinance and microcredit were pioneered by Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh, conceived as a way of making entrepreneurs out of people too poor to obtain traditional business loans.
Parker said most of the people who obtain the micro-loans produce food or craft items and then sell them within their own communities.
The concept is quite simple and was well summarized by an Argentine named Hugo.
"For example, I know how to make bread," the man says in the film. "I make. I sell it. And then I have money."
On their website, the students who started the microfinance club say the payback rate on microloans is 90 percent globally. That means they can use the $10,000 they raised to make loans almost indefinitely.
"Microfinancers don't ask for anything but the person's word," Parker said.
Funding for the documentary was obtained from Pepperdine University, and it was premiered there last March. The showing at the Babcock was partly underwritten by KTVQ, where Parker has been working since June as an editor, studio cameraman and reporter.
Parker said he and his partners could have released the movie on the Web immediately, but they didn't like the idea of people viewing it on their laptops or phones.
"Films weren't made to be watched that way," he said. "Films should be a shared experience."