Financial documentaries bring small crowd for big issues

Allison Declercq, Contributor Ω

The recent global financial crisis was the theme for the International Students’ Collective movie night and discussion Wednesday, Oct. 10, at the TRUSU Common Grounds. Featuring the 2010 film Inside Job and the short Europe on the Brink, the mood was somber as students learned more about the 2000s financial crises in the United States and shaking the foundations of the European Union.

Inside Job, directed and producedby Charles H. Ferguson, explored the series of policy changes and banking practices that led to the financial crisis of 2008 through a series of interviews of politicians, reporters, critics and academics. The film compared the small, highly regulated banks of the financial industry between 1940-1980 and the large, unregulated global firms of today. It also criticized the addition of derivatives in the ’90s, describing efforts to regulate them being crushed by the Commodities Future Modernization Act of 2000. The film went on to describe how people were being misinformed about risk and receiving loans they couldn’t pay back. It exposes the fact that financial firms were making millions betting against poor investments.

From there the tone of the film went downhill as the market for collateral debt obligation (CDOs) collapsed and the financial giants began to fall. The government absorbed some companies, bailed others and allowed some to go bankrupt. The world began to feel the American financial crisis.

The film ends leaving viewers with the feeling of witnessing the largest financial crime in history. Top executives of the collapsed companies left with fortunes. Major banks grew larger, along with anti-reform efforts. The promise of reform and regulation from the Obama administration has not been fulfilled.

Europe on the Brink, by Wall Street Journal editors and reporters, discussed the current financial crisis ravaging the indebted countries of the European Union: Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy. It described the EU as an effort to ensure no future conflict between invested European countries – an assurance against a possible Third World War. Criticism of the EU sparked, as the slow reaction to Greece’s overspending and growing debt was equated to the inability of the different countries to reach a consensus. Another point the film raised was the distant stance better-off countries like Germany and France took to Greece’s plight, raising issues of loyalty to fellow members. Once the crisis began to overcome Italy, the third largest economy in the EU, panic began to spread.

Parth Mokesh Patel, the TRUSU International Students Representative and organizer of the event, said he chose the films because their topics affect everyone around the world and related to students of many nationalities. He said a country’s ability to avoid crisis like the ones experienced in the United States and EU are up to culture.

“Chinese and Japanese tend to save for a rainy day,” Patel says, “Americans use credit, use money they don’t have.”

Despite the hope that the film viewings were going to lead to talk and the promising crowd of 20 students – which rose to around 40 when the pizza arrived – by the end of the film only five students remained, resulting in very little discussion.

Updated Feb. 2 at 12:36 p.m. by copy/web editor.