By Shiela Ring
Back in 2008, fear took hold as the American economy (and thereafter the global economy) ground to a halt with the collapse of AIG, one of the largest insurance corporations in America. The crisis began when AIG’s credit ratings were discovered to be worth far less than many within the financial services industry had speculated and traded on. All of a sudden, AIG was required to cover the cost of loans and debts it had no money to pay for. This led to the American economy being crippled, trillions in investment losses, and a question that nobody in a position of power (not even America’s new president) seemed able to answer – namely: why did this happen?
If you, like me, know only the broad strokes of the banking crisis, the forthcoming, Oscar-nominated ‘Inside Job’ (with its accusatory title betraying its angle) is an absolute must-see. Watching this film is like having someone sit you down and tell you the whole story in simple terms from beginning to end and for those affected by the financial crisis, which is pretty much everybody with a bank account, ‘Inside Job’ is an essential film for 2011.
Following his 2007 Bush/Iraq documentary ‘No End In Sight’, Charles Ferguson delivers this damning polemic on the banking crisis and its perpetrators. There’s no Michael Moore quirky humour to be found, as Ferguson plays it straight. Divided into five parts – How We Got Here; The Bubble; The Crisis; Accountability; Where We Are Now – Ferguson takes us on a step-by-step guide through what has happened and, more importantly, what will continue to happen.
Central players Summers, Greenspan, Paulson, Geithner and Bernanke declined to be interviewed (but are front and centre via archive footage) for ‘Inside Job’, so Ferguson instead lands lobbyists, economists, financial regulators, advisors and college professors who moonlight as financial advisors to investment banks. He even interviews therapists with stockbrokers on their client lists to get into the mindset of those involved. Desite a stream of talking heads, Ferguson’s handling is one of film and not just a dry documentary: moving at a frantic pace (there’s a new interviewee every twenty seconds or so), a themed rock soundtrack punctuates the running time and there are panoramic, sweeping overhead shots of New York to break up what could have been monotony. Who says you can’t make a banking crisis a little bit sexy? After all if you can sex-up a dossier you can sex-up anything in theory.
Differing from Moore’s documentaries, which don’t hide its political stance, Ferguson’s apolitical approach has a pop at the Republican governments of Reagan and Bush as much as he does at Clinton’s and Obama’s. The most depressing moments of ‘Inside Job’ are saved for last (another difference to Moore, who always ends his documentaries on a hopeful note), where Ferguson shows that those responsible for the crisis are now financial advisors to the current president. They never learn.