Documentaries: The reckoning - MoneySense

Documentaries: The reckoning

Capitalism has had a rough ride lately. According to these business documentaries, it had it coming.


1. LET’S MAKE MONEY Directed by Erwin Wagenofer (Mongrel Media, $29.95):

This timely film travels from Washington to Burkino Faso to paint a series of portraits of the current global financial meltdown. The picture is grim: financial companies are strong-arming governments to deregulate business, destroying economies in their greedy wake. Our take: It’s an anti-capitalist diatribe, but the filmmaker makes up for that by interviewing so many interesting money managers, politicians and economists. The segment on Spain’s housing crash is particularly chilling and could represent many markets in the world.

2. ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM Directed by Alex Gibney (Alliance Films, $13.99):

This Oscar-nominated film traces the rise and fall of one of the most spectacular frauds in corporate American history. CEOs Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling portrayed themselves as visionaries, but wound up as convicted crooks who lied to stockholders and wiped out the retirements of countless employees. Our take: Told like a Hollywood thriller, Enron skillfully blends fine reporting with entertaining cinema. Though the Enron collapse is widely known, Gibney interviews many of the key players to get the inside story.

3. CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY Directed by Michael Moore (Alliance Films):

A year after the Wall Street meltdown, Moore unleashes a harsh critique of the free-market system that has left countless Americans jobless and homeless. Our take: Now in theatres, Moore’s latest is either a stunning condemnation of the excesses of capitalism, or a sensationalistic fraud. He is preaching to the converted, but at least he puts a human face on the statistics, while drawing odd but fascinating parallels between capitalism, Christianity and democracy.

4. WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? Directed by Chris Paine (Sony Pictures, $19.95):

California wants to cut down on air pollution, so in 1996 GM launches the EV1 electric car. It requires no gas, oil changes or mufflers, and customers love it, including Mel Gibson. So why did GM recall every EV1 six years later? Our take: Timely, given the renewed interest in hybrid cars and alternative vehicles. Chris Paine’s film is a cautionary tale suggesting that the illicit marriage between business and political lobbying can trump even profits.

5. THE CORPORATION Directed by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott & Joel Bakan (Mongrel Media, $32.40):

If the law grants corporations the same rights as a person, what kind of person is a corporation? Three Canadian filmmakers psychoanalyze the corporation by examining cases of child labor and environmental damage, and interviewing everyone from Milton Friedman to Noam Chomsky. Their verdict? Corporations are psychopaths. Our take: The exhaustive 145-minute film will outrage fiscal conservatives and encourage social activists. However The Corporation is so well-researched and presented that it deserves a viewing even if it offends your beliefs.