Films about economics
The Power of the Fed investigates how the United States central bank’s actions have played out over the years on Wall Street versus Main Street, since the last financial crash of 2008. The film traces how the experiment the Fed began in 2008 has been dramatically ratcheting up, peaking with the COVID-19 crisis in 2020. But, of course, rather than help correct from the huge corruption and financial abstractions that caused the 2008 crash, the fed has doubled down on its policies of “quantitative easing” which have gone on to help widen the greatest inequality of wealth in history, pushing financial products even further removed from the economy, driving inflation, automation, and worsening the impending cycles of boom and bust. The rise of speculative cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has only fueled the mania, as economic volatility increases.
Housing is fundamental human right. But in cities all around the world, housing affordability is decreasing at record pace. The local working and middle classes have become unable to afford housing in major cities: London, New York, Berlin, Hong Kong, Toronto, Tokyo, Valparaiso, Sydney, Melbourne, Caracas, Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm… the list seems endless. People are being pushed out of their very own homes—because living in them has rapidly become unaffordable. Told through the eyes of Leilani Farha, a United Nations special rapporteur on housing, Push touches on the foundations of the crisis, as we follow the rise of abstract finance and the pervasive influence of neoliberalism that conjures a perfect storm: the global financial crisis of 2008—where houses packaged as “complex financial instruments” were the core of the crisis. Then, once the financial industry was bailed out by the public to the tune of trillions of dollars, financiers bought up millions of houses around the globe for cents on the dollar, and their power and influence has only increased in the subsequent decades. Farha travels all around the world, speaking to people that now spend 90% of their income on rent, after wages have stayed stagnant since 1970s, and how large corporations swallow up entire communities, guided by the same politik. She says we still need to confront those old ideas—the financialisation of the housing ‘market.’ “There’s a huge difference between housing as a commodity and gold as a commodity.” These systems don’t consider the people they extract from.
In post-industrial United States, the Chinese company Fuyao opens a car-glass factory in an abandoned General Motors plant, hiring thousands of blue-collar American and Chinese workers. Through an an observational format, American Factory presents the two distinct cultures, comparing and contrasting each other, as well as weaving subtle commentary revealed from the workers’ themselves about the nature of manufacturing work; their differing cultural and generational attitudes on labour rights and unionising; as well as observing upper management methods and corporate politics. The film is a collage of self-revealing messages about the cultures of high-tech China and post-industrial United States, shown through the lens of capitalism and the changing status of each country in the global economy.
This Is Neoliberalism is a series of video essays that explore the origins and makings of neoliberalism—the dominant ideology of capitalism. The series explains what neoliberalism is and where it came from. Economic liberalisation, privatisation of the public sphere, deregulation of corporations, tax cuts for the rich, “free trade,” “austerity,” and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in society are just some of the many themes of neoliberalism, which as an ideology, fundamentally seeks to increase the power of corporations and ensure wealth remains shifted to the upper class. The series begins in 1918, and takes us up to modern politics, through globalisation, and to the modern ruling economy.
The Spider’s Web: Britain’s Second Empire shows how Britain transformed from a colonial power into a global financial power. At the demise of empire, the City of London’s financial interests created a web of offshore secrecy jurisdictions that captured wealth from across the globe and hid it behind obscure financial structures, and webs of offshore islands. Today, up to half of global offshore wealth may be hidden in British offshore jurisdictions, and these are now the largest players in the world of international finance. Based in part on the book Treasure Islands by expert Nicholas Shaxson, and through contributions from former-insiders, academics, and campaigners for justice, The Spider’s Web reveals how, in the world of international finance, corruption and secrecy have prevailed over regulation and transparency, and how the United Kingdom is a pioneer of the modern corrupt global economy.
In Requiem for the American Dream, renowned intellectual figure Noam Chomsky deliberates on the defining characteristics of our time—the colossal concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few and fewer, with the rise of a rapacious individualism and complete collapse of class consciousness. Chomsky does this by discussing some of the key principles that have brought this culture to the pinnacle of historically unprecedented inequality by tracing a half century of policies designed to favour the most wealthy at the expense of the majority, while also looking back on his own life of activism and political participation. The film serves to provide insights into how we got here, and culminates as a reminder that these problems are not inevitable. Once we remember those who came before and those who will come after, we see that we can, and should, fight back.
In recent years, nature conservation has become a booming business where huge sums of money change hands, and endangered species become exotic financial products. Banking Nature, delves into this hidden world of so-called environmental banking, where huge corporations such as Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan Chase buy up the land and habitat of endangered species, and then sell them in the form of shares. Companies that inevitably harm the environment are then obliged to buy credits to offset the damage that they have caused. In Uganda, we meet men who measure trees to determine how much carbon they store and then a banker from the German firm that sells the resulting carbon credits. In Brazil, the steel giant Vale destroys the rainforest, replaces it with a monocrop tree plantation, and reaps the benefits of environmental credits as if the rainforest was still standing. Banking Nature posits that we disallow the same corporate criminals responsible for the global financial crisis from turning what’s left of the natural world into their final corrupt commodities market.
Fascism Inc. examines a series of historical events to compile a view of the past, the present and the future of fascism and its relation to the economic interests of each era—including the current era. The film travels from Mussolini’s Italy, to Greece under the Nazi occupation; the civil war and the dictatorship; and from Hitler’s Germany to the modern European and Greek fascism. Following on from the foundations of earlier films such as Debtocracy and Catastroika which described the causes of the debt crisis, the impact of the austerity measures, the erosion of democracy and the sell-out of the country’s assets; Fascism Inc. aspires to continue to motivate anti-fascist resistance movements across Europe, and the world.
Nearly 100 years after its creation, the power of the United States Federal Reserve has never been greater. Governments and financial systems around the world pay close attention to the Fed Chairman’s every word, philosophies and ideologies. Yet the average person knows very little about the most powerful and least understood financial institution. Money For Nothing takes viewers inside the Fed and reveals the impact of Fed policies past, present, and future.
Why did appointed officials of the Australian Reserve Bank and its employees break sanctions in Iraq and cosy up to Saddam Hussein through a frontman during the late 1990s, early 2000s and beyond? Why did a former Deputy Governor and other directors hand-picked by the Reserve Bank to safeguard its subsidiary companies from corruption, end up—over a decade—overseeing some of the most corrupt business practices possible? How did they allow millions of dollars to be wired to third parties in foreign countries—including a known arms dealer—in order to win banknote contracts knowingly using bribery and supporting corruption?
The Wall Street Code explores the once-secret lucrative world of prolific algorithmic trading by profiling an inside programmer who, in 2012, dared to stand up against Wall Street and its extreme culture of secrecy, to blow the whistle on insights into the way the modern global money market works. His name is Haim Bodek—aka ‘The Algo Arms Dealer’—and having worked for Goldman Sachs, his revelations speak to the new kind of wealth made only possible by vast mathematical formulas, computer technologies and clever circumventions of laws and loophole exploits. Vast server farms and algorithms working beyond the timescale of human comprehension, have largely taken over human trading on the global financial markets for decades. What are the implications of that? The algorithms seem to have a life of their own. Snippets of code secretly lie waiting for the moment that your pension fund gets on the market; trades done in nanoseconds on tiny fluctuations in stock prices. And the only ones who understand this system are its architects—the algorithm developers. The Wall Street Code provides just a small insight into this new world of high-frequency trading, amongst other things…
Your retirement plan, if you’re even lucky enough to have one, is a gamble. Fees, self-dealing, kickbacks, deregulation and/or no regulation at all brings great profits to the financial system, while imperiling the future of individuals who provide 100% of the funds, take 100% of the risks, but only get 30% of the returns. Even the privileged Baby Boomer generation now faces uncertainties, to say nothing of those who come after and face an even more staggering wealth inequality. The paternalistic “American dream” of the 1950s has long been over. Now, thanks to decades of neoliberalism, with a financial system geared towards short term profits and externalising risks and costs, the retirement fund industry is a ten trillion dollar industry, protected by obfuscation and complexity. The Retirement Gamble offers a window into this racket, raising just some of the troubling questions about how this supposed system claims to “work for everyone” when it does nothing of the sort, by design.
Fashion Victims looks at the real cost of cheap clothes from the conditions of sweat shops in Bangladesh. On 24th April, 2013 more than a thousand people were killed when an eight storey building collapsed in the heart of Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka. The collapse of Rana Plaza turned the world’s attention to the shocking conditions workers in the country’s clothing industry are forced to endure. In recent years, Australian companies have flooded into Bangladesh to take advantage of lax labour laws and the lowest wages in the world, paid to the predominantly young, female workers in the factories.
The Tax Free Tour travels the globe to expose the workings of offshore tax havens and the elite banking systems of the world’s billionaires which operate in extreme secrecy. Using examples from multi-national corporations such as Apple Computer and Starbucks, the film traces sizeable capital streams that travel the world literally in milliseconds—all to avoid local laws and paying tax. Such routes go by resounding names like ‘Cayman Special’, ‘Double Irish’, and ‘Dutch Sandwich’. The Tax Free Tour is a sobering look at how the world’s rich live in an entirely different world than the rest of us…
Obey is a video essay based on the book “Death of the Liberal Class” by author and journalist Chris Hedges. The film charts the rise of corporatocracy and examines the trending possible futures of obedience in a world of unfettered capitalism, globalisation, staggering inequality and environmental crisis — posing the question, do we resist or obey?
Six years after the housing bubble burst in the United States in 2008, the worst is yet to come. After a recent landmark settlement, major banks have lifted the freeze on foreclosures, with evictions again in full swing. Public housing budgets have been slashed, while the thin line between home ownership and homelessness grows ever more wide. People are angry about the impunity of the banks and some have found innovative ways of fighting back in an age of austerity. For Sale travels to Chicago and California to see how people at the forefront of the crisis are confronting the collapse of the American dream.
For more than two years the Eurozone has teetered on the edge of an economic precipice. But how exactly did it get into the current financial mess? Talking to historians, economists and politicians, The Great Euro Crash takes a long view of the euro—from Churchill’s vision of a United States of Europe; to the bail-outs of Greece, Portugal and Ireland. Meeting a property developer in Ireland, a taxi driver in Rome and a German manufacturing worker; the film exposes the high cost being paid by European workers today for the dream of European Union—how the entire system has so far come to a complete banking meltdown. The crisis could yet claim Britain, with its vast financial sector, dragged down by the collapse of the euro. And the cost of reviving the complex economy is so high, triggering a return to the economic mayhem of the 1930s.
Far from ending with the abolition of slavery, the trade in human beings is thriving more than ever before. Today, 27 million men, women and children are held, sold and trafficked as slaves throughout the world. From the sex slaves of Eastern Europe to China’s prison labour slaves; from Brazil’s hellish charcoal slave camps to entire families enslaved in Pakistan’s brick kilns, this series exposes the people behind modern slavery and the companies who profit from it.
Exploring the collusion between the richest people in the United States and the figureheads of political power in government, this film focuses on Park Avenue in New York which is currently the home to the highest concentration of billionaires in the United States. Across the river in Manhattan, less than five miles away, Park Avenue runs through the South Bronx which is home to the countries’ poorest. The disparity of wealth has never been so stark and has accelerated extraordinarily over the last 40 years. As of 2010, 400 people controlled more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the population—150 million people—as well as seizing political power. Park Avenue travels through this to illustrate why the concept of so-called “upward mobility” is a myth perpetuated by the rich, and also to unpack the workings of plutocracy and capitalism—the current-day rule by the rich, and the implications of this collusion of power and control.
Mongolia is the next target for the world’s biggest mining corporations for copper. The Oyu Tolgoi mine currently under construction in the South Gobi Desert is a combined open-pit and underground mine due to start extraction in the next few months of 2012. But the problems don’t end there. The Oyu Tolgoi deal between the Mongolian government and the massive Australian mining company Rio Tinto is truly indicative—Mongolia gets just 34 percent, while Rio Tinto is exempt from a profits tax and receives open access to scarce desert aquifers and the provisioning of water to people living close to land that the mining company now claims to own. The Big Dig documents how this avaricious mining-driven culture comes at the expense of the natural world and the way of life of local communities.
Brussels, the capital and largest city of Belgium, has a long history of hosting the institutions of the European Union within its European Quarter; while the Union itself claims it has no capital and no plans to declare one—despite the fact that Brussels hosts the official seats of the European Commission, Council of the European Union, and European Council, as well as a seat of the European Parliament. In any event, it is here—in this centre of smoke and mirrors—that exists one of the largest concentrations of lobbyist power in the world. The Brussels Business scratches the surface of this extensive world hidden-from-view by looking at the direct influence of lobbyists and the complete lack of transparency in the decision-making processes. Speaking with lobbyists and activists themselves, The Brussels Business reveals the beginnings of a vast landscape of PR conglomerates, front companies, think-tanks and their closely-interlinking networks of power and ties to political and economic elites. The questions then become: Who actually runs the European Union? How? And why?
Perfect Storm offers an initial analysis of the underlying causes and wider context surrounding the riots throughout England in 2011. Contrary to the portrayals presented by mainstream media and trite political rhetoric around law and order, the riots were sparked by poverty, inequality and frustration over police killing a young man in Tottenham. How does the damage weigh up to the criminal conduct of banks and corporate tax avoiders when the costs of the riots are over four thousand times less than the recent financial crisis? Whose priorities are at play here?
“Quants” are the mathematicians, software developers and computer programmers at the centre of the global economy. These are the people who designed the “complex financial products” that caused the financial crisis of 2008. Here they speak openly about their game of huge profits, and how the global economy has become increasingly dependent on mathematical models that quantify commodified human behaviours to the point of insanity. But things don’t stop there. Through the convergence of economy and technology, the Quants have now brought this model into the world of the machines, where trades are done at the speed of light, far from the realm of human experience. The machines are in charge. Some Quants are even now worried. What are the risks of this complex machine? Will the Quants be able to keep control of this financial system, or have they created a monster?
Freakonomics is a segmented adaptation of the book by the same name, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner about incentives-based thinking. The film presents segments to examine the theories of human behaviour and data mining presented in the book through case studies. Subjects include: the influence a person’s name has on their personal and social development; corruption in an honor-bound sport such as sumo wrestling; what alleged factors lead to a statistical reduction in crime rates in the United States during the 1990s; and a school experiment to see if cash payments could incentivise students to get good grades. Through these examples and others, the film exposes the problems with data-driven economic incentive models, and the society obsessed with quantitative measuring and data, rather than a focus on quality of outcomes or even what the outcomes are.
With the recent global financial crisis, governments across the world promised decisive action — the biggest financial stimulus packages in history, along with gargantuan bail-outs of corporations and floods of money into private banks and investment firms. But what crazed logic is this: propping up bad debt with…more bad debt? Overdose reviews the happenings of the bail-outs over these years, showing how dangerous the situation continues as a burst bubble is re-inflated globally. What happens next?
Inside Job provides a comprehensive analysis of the global financial crisis of 2008, which at a cost over $20 trillion, caused millions of people to lose their jobs and homes in the worst recession since the Great Depression, and nearly resulted in a global financial collapse. Through interviews with key financial insiders, politicians, journalists, and academics, Inside Job traces the rise of a rogue industry which has corrupted government and academia…
Golden Rule presents a picture of today’s political economy interpreted through the framework of the “Investment Theory of political Parties”. The theory, first articulated in 1983 by Thomas Ferguson, is largely based on quantitative analysis of activity in the stock market and its relationship to politics—that is to say that “elections are moments when groups of investors coalesce and invest to control the state.” The film takes this theory and tests it against developments in the political and social spheres of recent decades, right up to the election of Barack Obama in the United States in 2008…
Over six desperate days in October 1929, the New York Stock Exchange crashed leading to the collapse of three thousand banks, taking people’s savings with them. In a matter of days, the United States economy was obliterated. The crash was followed by a devastating worldwide depression that lasted until the Second World War. Finances did not regain their pre-crash values until 1954. This film recounts the story of a financial disaster that we hoped could never happen again, revealing the familiar tune of cheap credit, consumerism, greed, corruption and cronyism in the current-day financial crisis…
Corporations On Trial is a five-part series following just some of the many lawsuits being brought against multinational corporations for war crimes, conspiracy, corruption, assassinations, environmental devastation and payments to terrorists. Such serious charges have forced some of the world’s largest companies to hire high-profile defence lawyers to protect public relations in cases often brought by plaintiffs who are barely literate. These five films reveal a growing anxiety about the power and influence of big business, as many multinational corporations have annual revenues greater than some countries’ national budgets and indeed increasingly hold governments to ransom by their economic power. Around the world, ordinary people are fighting back and asking how many more times their interests should be sacrificed for corporate greed and shareholder profit…
The Chicago Sessions explores the ethical implications of the financial crisis during three sessions with a group of law and philosophy students. The grounds of the University of Chicago provide a compelling arena, since it is here that both economist Milton Friedman—staunch promoter of free market capitalism—and Barack Obama, lectured. Examples of crisis related issues discussed during the sessions are: mortgage lending practices, foreclosures, bail outs and CEO pay. The students will test their ideas both on eminent professors and on field experts. The discussion is fueled and illustrated by case stories that the students themselves provide. The cases show how the financial crisis really affects the people of Chicago and in one example shows the consequences of the foreclosures in a neighborhood not far from the university and Barack Obama’s home.
The End of Poverty? traces the growth of global poverty back to colonisation in the 15th century to reveal why it’s not an accident or simple bad luck that there is a growing underclass around the world. Featuring interviews with a number of economists, sociologists, and historians, the film details how poverty is the clear consequence of free-market economic policy which has allowed powerful nations to exploit poorer ones for their assets, turning the money back to the hands of the concentrated few. This also follows on to how wealthy nations—especially the United States—thereby exert massive debts, seize a much disproportionate exploit of the natural world, and how this deep imbalance has dire consequences on the environment and on people…
“Supermarkets have bulked up. These days they’re retail superpowers who make money not just when we eat or drink but increasingly when we fill the petrol tank, play pokies or buy a hammer from the local hardware – and they’re quietly stalking pharmacies, newsagents and florists. Coles and Woolworth’s sell 70 percent of the dry groceries and half the fresh food that Australians consume – among the highest concentrations of market power in the developed world”…
For millions of people, the global economic collapse has generated curiosity about how money systems actually work, as opposed to how they’re portrayed, especially when so many financial pundits seem to be baffled. In The Ascent of Money, economist Niall Ferguson works through some history that created today’s money system, visiting the locations where key events took place and poring over actual ledgers and documents, such as the first publicly traded share of a company. Viewed with a critical eye, this series aims to show how the history of money is indeed at the core of civilisation, with economic strength determining political dominance, wars fought to create wealth and individual financial barons determining the fates of millions.
The Big Sellout reveals the reality of privatisation and globalisation by examining the corporate takeover of basic public services throughout the world, such as water supply, electricity, public transportation, and public health care. In South America, Asia, Africa, but also in Europe and the United States, filmmaker Florian Opitz talks to the architects of the new economic world order, as well as to ordinary people who have to deal with the real direct effects. The result is a tapestry of narratives the world over that show where the dogma of privatisation cames from, who profits from it, what societies lose, and why resistance is so important.
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is a presentation by John Perkins, based on the book by the same name published by him in 2004. Perkins describes the role: “Economic hit men are highly-paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign “aid” organisations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools included fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, pay-offs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalisation.”
Money is a new form of slavery and is only distinguishable from the old slavery simply by the fact that it is impersonal—that there is no human relation between master and slave. Debt in government, corporate and household has reached astronomical proportions. Where does all this money come from? How could there be that much money to lend? The answer is that there isn’t…
The Secret History of the Credit Card uncovers the deceptive techniques and tactics used by banks and financial corporations to get citizens to take on ever more debt, while earning record profits. Penalty fees, defaulting, changing contracts, increasing rates retrospectively—these are some of the ways credit card companies gouge their users, and increase influence. The film shows how such profitability of credit cards began in the 1980s, when the banking industry successfully eliminated the limit on the interest rate a lender can charge a borrower. This deregulation, coupled with real-time tracking of personal financial information, facilitated the widening availability of credit cards. Despite a growing number of consumer complaints, the ability of state and local governments to investigate the credit card companies has virtually been eliminated, due to companies incessant lobbying and litigation that has created a jurisdictional “turf battle.”
From the front-lines of conflicts in Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, Palestine, Korea, and the North; from Seattle to Genova and the “War on Terror” in New York, Afghanistan, and Iraq, The Fourth World War documents the stories of women and men all around the world who resist being annihilated in this war. Centred around economics and systems such as NAFTA, GATT, the G20, APEC and others, this is a war which plays along with the spread of rapacious globalisation, a feat that has pervasive consequences in the real world…
Did you know that the legal system recognises a corporation as a person? What kind of ‘person’ is it then? What would happen if it sat down with a psychologist to discuss its behaviour and attitude towards society and the environment? Explored through specific examples, this film shows how and why the modern-day corporation has rapaciously pressed itself into the dominant institution of our time, posing big questions about what must be done if we want a equitable and sustainable world. What must we do when corporations are psychopaths?
The film is a video essay by Professor Albert Bartlett essentially serving as an introduction to the concept of steady growth and doubling time, by taking us through the impacts and consequences of exponential growth on a finite planet. By making good observations of this impossible growth as applied to fossil-fuel consumption, population and the endless growth of which the global economy requires, this presentation gives us the basic tools to fundamentally understand that we’ve got a real problem on our hands.