Sunday, April 25, 2010

DVD: Plunder (Ava and C.I.)

I've got a secret, I can't tell you
I've got a secret, I can't tell you

I've got a secret, I can't tell you

I've got a secret, I can't tell you

You would charge . . .

About the only big change we'd make in Danny Schechter's latest documentary Plunder would be giving it a catchy theme song like Kate Nash's "I've Got A Secret" which -- even in the way the music slows down -- seems to capture the economic collapse.


"I used to think of Wall St. as a financial center, I now think of it as a crime scene," Danny declares in one scene with Rev. Jesse Jackson standing next to him and we disagree with that slightly.

Before we get to that, let's explore it. Plunder charts the economic collapse -- something Danny's been doing for some time. And in fact, he wrote a book entitled Plunder as well but this isn't a film strip, it's a full blown documentary. And though reading the enjoyable book will certainly increase your knowledge, it is not required reading to grasp the movie.

In fact, that's probably the most important thing any review of Plunder can get across: No homework needed.

There is no math. Danny's done all the work for you. You don't need a degree in economics or to know the ins and outs of stocks and banking beforehand.

That's important because you and a group of friends decide to see a film and someone suggest "documentary" and a few beg off. Someone suggests a documentary about the economic crisis and a number are going to feel unprepared and out of their depth. Rest easy, Danny guides you from the shallow end to the deep end safely.

The economic crisis, he explains, has to do with mortgage fraud which involved interest rate changes and tricking people into terms of a contract they could not afford (subprime lending) and overvaluing the properties being flipped. This is the housing bubble. We're keeping it simple. Danny does as well but goes into much more detail (all of which any viewer will be able to follow with keen interest). See, the issue wasn't just that people were tricked into mortgages they could not afford, it was that the properties themselves were overvalued.

There is a group that tends to blame those who agreed to take out the loans (Seth Meyers, for example, has publicly ridiculed them on Saturday Night Live) and the fact that these were loans they couldn't afford (which they were tricked into taking) is only part of the story. It's easy for some people to dismiss what took place as some sort of 'personal problem' if they chose to ignore that the ones profitting were gaming both sides: They were lying to the people taking out the loans and they were lying to other banks that were backing the properties thinking they had value. Like good con artists, they didn't screw over just one group of people when they could screw over two. And those, like Seth Meyers, who have no sympathy for the economically downtrodden who suffered might find some sympathy if they grasped that it was not just the failure of the loans but also the inflated property value that caused the collapse.

Then again, maybe not. Like dirt, the jerks are forever with us.

The above and other details are how Danny sketches out the crime scene.

But, again, we don't see it as a crime movie.

No, to us, it's a horror movie.

That's really brought home when people speak to the camera about losing their homes.

It's an American and modern day horror story. And some have dismissed Plunder insisting that they know the basics already. Really? Did they see the film they criticize (you'd be surprised how many people don't see the films they slam)? If they did, they missed over half of it.

This isn't a lecture.

This isn't Danny at the podium.

These aren't dry facts. Yes, Paul Krugman -- among other experts -- appears in the film. But so do real people with very real stories. And it's in telling these stories that the film becomes so much deeper than its detractors realize. And it's in providing more footage of these oppressed people fighting back that the horror film motif really works.

Danny's addressed what's happened. But this is a story still unwinding and the ending remains unwritten. Plunder can be rented on iTunes for $3.99 or downloaded for $9.99. We went with the latter and one word of caution -- on WiFi, that took forever. We mean hours. If you're WiFi, you may consider just renting (or else ordering a hard copy of the film which you can do here). If you're dial up, forget it, it's not going to download (for purchase or rental).

However you watch it, carve out time for afterwards. At least an hour. You'll want to discuss various issues raised by the documentary. For us, it was why the US continues to fail to invest in a solid economic base and instead the government prays for and courts the bubbles -- the bubble, the housing bubble, etc. -- when every bubble eventually bursts?

I've got a secret, I can't tell you
I've got a secret, I can't tell you

I've got a secret, I can't tell you

I've got a secret, I can't tell you

You would charge

You would charge
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