Monday, January 24, 2011

Financial crisis documentary debuts at Sundance

PARK CITY: A documentary opening at the Sundance Film Festival suggests that the 2008 financial meltdown highlighted not only the greed of Wall Street, but the growing economic woes of average Americans, the filmmaker says.




"The Flaw," from director David Sington -- whose Apollo mission documentary "In the Shadow of the Moon" won the World Cinema Audience Award after its Sundance premiere in 2007 -- is hoping to garner similar success at the prestigious festival held in the snowy Utah mountains, through January 30.



"What attracted me about this story was the compelling attraction of the blank page," Sington said. "I could do anything I wanted, because nobody knew what had happened."



The director said he spoke to many senior financial executives on Wall Street, in his attempt to decipher the story: "They were very eloquent on the what. But on the why, they had no more ideas than I did."



In the first three months of the documentary, Sington and his team researched what happened, and what had been the intellectual failure.



"Is it ideas, is it a question of regulation, was it the ratings agencies? After three months, we just had a long list of possible answers," he said.



Only after more months in the editing suite, following hours of interviews and studying reams of statistics, did an understand come through.



"About 80 percent of the subprime loans would be given to people who already had loans. So it wasn't a question of a new group of borrowers of low credit quality. It was that the existing borrowers, their credit quality was in decline," he said.



"It seemed to me that that was where the focus of the film should be. Trying to explain why it was that ordinary Americans were becoming a bad credit risk when they hadn't been a few years before."



Through the making of the film, the director wanted to note the "astonishing fact" of how the US economy doubled in size since the 1980s, yet for 90 percent of the population, "their living standards have certainly not gone up, and probably they've gone down."



Everyone, he said, "kind of knows that the riches are getting richer. And everybody knows that somehow the middle class is being squeezed. But for me, the revelation was the scale, particularily in America on which this is happening."



To illustrate the perversion of capitalism -- and explain the underlying principles behind the economic system that led to the economic collapse -- the director employed 1950s cartoon propaganda clips to contrast the free market system with that the state-controlled approach of the Soviet Union.



Even if the documentary dismisses simple greed of Wall Street as a clear hypothesis for the crisis, Sington's film does not clear financiers completely.



He notes that in the years leading up to the meltdown, Wall Street's "attitude to the impending disaster was not 'How can we prevent a disaster?' but 'How could we profit on it?'"http://hotmedia2010.blogspot.com/

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