(My fifth year economics teacher would be shocked at this post. I was so heinously moronically bad at economics in school that I dropped the subject after fifth year and so only did six subjects for my Leaving Cert. However I’ve recently watched a whole spate of economics related documentaries and movies and found the subject to be fascinating. Better late than never I suppose!)
The times we live in – specifically the Global Economic Downturn, Ireland’s recession, the bankruptcy of certain countries threatening the stability of the EU – have recently been the subject of a lot of feature films and documentaries. Most of these don’t require the viewer to have a huge wealth of knowledge of economics, stocks, trading, etc., (look, if I can understand them, anyone can!) but they do provide a comprehensive understanding of how the global economy got into this mess and how we can get out of it. Most of these films are American focussed but, as we all now know, the collapse of their economy had a huge knock-on effect globally.
A word of warning though; you will become angry as you watch them. When you see how the CEOs of these corporations, people who singlehandedly destroyed the world’s economy, walk away without being criminally charged and even worse with multi-million dollar bonuses, you may find yourself throwing things at the television!
My top picks for anyone who is interested in this stuff:
My interest in this subject was in part started by this amazing film which I watched last year and have recommended to everyone. It’s a fictionalised account of the final days in the run up to Lehmann Brothers declaring bankruptcy.
Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room
My favourite American documentary maker Alex Gibney directed this Academy Award nominated film released in 2005. It show how the collapse of Enron, one of the world’s major energy companies, affected the entire US economy. It also makes clear the involvement of Enron traders in the California Electricity Crisis of 2000 and 2001.
Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream
Also directed by Alex Gibney and available to view on Youtube, this documentary is part of the Why Poverty series; a series that examines poverty in the 21st Century. The gulf between the rich and the poor in America is illustrated by Park Avenue in Manhattan, a street which houses some of the richest people in the world, and Park Avenue in the South Bronx, just ten miles away, where more than half the population needs food stamps.
Overdose: The Next Financial Crisis
Just in case you were relaxing and thinking that the worst was over, this documentary (again available to watch free on Youtube) gives compelling evidence about the next bubble due to burst that will cause an even worse global recession; the bailout bubble.
Too Big To Fail
Too big to fail was a term coined in 1984 describing financial institutions that are so large and so interconnected that their failure would be disastrous to the economy, and which therefore must be supported by government when they face difficulty. It’s also the title for an HBO film, released in 2011, which boasts a stellar cast including William Hurt, Paul Giamatti, Cynthia Nixon, James Woods, Topher Grace and Bill Pullman. The film focusses on the American financial meltdown of 2008 and is utterly brilliant.