2010, 120 mins., PG-13
Academy award nominated documentarian Charles Ferguson has brought a breathtaking exposé of high crimes and misdemeanors to the screen. Without holding back, the movie accuses some of the highest office holders of the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations of conspiracy to swindle hundreds of billions of dollars out of suckers like you and me.
The facts portrayed play like an action movie: the main culprits are the handful of investment banks that carried out the crime of this - or any - century and brought the world to its financial knees in 2008. Fifteen million unemployed Americans are still being robbed, every day.
Government officials were more than henchmen; they were full-fledged players. Some of them continue today to hold the highest offices, including those of Secretary of the Treasury and Chairman of the Federal Reserve. At a slightly lower level in the conspiratorial apparatus, but just as despicable, were the academicians who were paid to reassure the public while we were being fleeced. Textbook writing economists and heads of prestigious business colleges are queried and condemned, along with the other crooks.
The conspirators carried home billions, and they still have them! No one was indicted. No one went to jail. By contrast, two African American women, Jamie and Gladys Scott, are shown suffering their 16th year in a Mississippi prison for participating in an $11 heist! The lesson is clear: while stealing a little bit is punishable in the United States, stealing a lot is a-okay!
Ferguson's documentary isn't the first to try to explain what happened when the unregulated derivatives market ate New York and then the planet. Michael Moore told it plainer and more directly in Capitalism, a Love Story, and a PBS documentary gave a legalistic view. Ferguson, though, gives details, not only the mechanics, of the crime, but the identities of the perpetrators.
As I left the theater, though, I realized that Ferguson had left out the guts of the story. He explained the crime and named the criminals, but he didn't even mention the economic system that permits and encourages such incredible unpunished massive robberies from the people.
Image: PW/Jim Lane with thanks to wikipedia.org