29 October 2010
If you only ever see one film about the financial crisis of October 2008, you should make it Charles Ferguson’s Inside Job. Writing in the Vancouver Sun, Katherine Monk said that, unlike Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, this film is likely to “light a Molotov in your mind“.
The producer Charles Ferguson became an Oscar-nominated film-maker with 2007′s No End in Sight: Iraq’s Descent into Chaos. According to BBC News he believes that his latest offering, lifting the lid on the damage wrought on the global economy by greedy and incompetent bankers two years ago is no less important. “The essence of what happened is quite simple. It’s a heist movie — but the heist was conducted by the people running the banks rather than by people walking into the banks with guns. I think it’s important for people to understand the role that the political system played and the role that academia played.”
Ferguson, a former consultant to high-tech companies who sold his business to Microsoft in the 1990s, went on to say: “Banking is very much in denial. Even in my private and off-the-record conversations with financial executives I’ve not encountered a single honest expression of remorse or shame or guilt.”
This exactly mirrors my own experience. I’ve interviewed numerous senior bankers since the crash and it’s astonishing how many are still in denial. According to Steve Kirsch writing in the Huffington Post, Inside Job does a “masterful job” in telling the story of how and why the financial crisis happened.
“Ferguson details how the financial institutions got greedy and how they convinced our lawmakers to drop regulations that keep your money safe (basically arguing that over-regulation is a bad thing). The financial institutions gambled with your money and lost. But since they were too big to fail, the Feds bailed them out. A “no lose” scenario for the financial institutions.
“The movie also explains why President Obama isn’t putting in place regulations to prevent it from happening again. Basically, many of the same people who caused the problem in the first place are still in charge. So they have not rolled back the regulatory policies to what they were before, and they haven’t beefed up enforcement either. No criminal charges have been filed. The rich got richer, everyone else paid the price.
Note: December 23rd, 2010: Just found what Felix Salmon said about Inside Job in a blog post dated October 5th, 2010
Ferguson is the director of Inside Job, the new documentary about the financial crisis which is a must-see for pretty much everybody. I didn’t have very high hopes for the film: I generally consider that video journalism has acquitted itself very badly over the course of the crisis and I blamed the medium rather than the messengers, many of whom are very smart and well-informed.
It turns out, however, that in expert hands, the medium, at least when it’s under the control of Ferguson, can do a spectacularly good job of presenting what happened and why — better than any newspaper series or magazine article or book or radio show.
What Ferguson has achieved here is an extremely impressive balancing act: while his explanations are clear-eyed and accurate, he’s never content to simply tell us what happened. He also takes pains to constantly remind us that people did this and that nearly all of them are still relaxing in plutocratic comfort even as millions of workers in America and around the world have seen their lives destroyed by the effects of the crisis.