1 Disc Widescreen Edition (2010)
From the filmmaker who made “In Debt We Trust” warning of the U.S. credit crisis and was labeled as a “doom and gloomer”, Danny Schechter now presents “Plunder: The Crime of our Time”, an investigative documentary that dissects the Wall Street fraud and financial crisis focusing on the housing market. This DVD is set for release on April 13th.
After opening with a short sequence about his previous work and an opportunity to gloat about his predictions, he jumps into the emphasis of making the financial crisis into a crime story and being able to prove the actual criminal enterprises that took place. Much of the material is very familiar by now from other documentaries, news stories, and books. It is brightened up with footage of cute songs people are writing about the crisis much in the style of humor that Michael Moore tries to instill in his documentaries. Some of the statements the director Danny Schechter makes about the crime scene and wanting to put up crime scene tape just as Moore did in “Capitalism: A Love Story.” While Moore has lost much of his sense of humor and uses tactics he knows won’t generate results just to get attention, Schechter focuses on the details and story and uses broad statements about what the future should bring and punishments inflicted upon the criminals.
There are some fantastic speeches of politicians absolutely wailing on each other about what committees had responsibilities to the American people and whose agendas are being forced down their throats to approve bailouts which are very dramatic and look great in this documentary and will help those people get re-elected. The flip side that the viewer can clearly see though is that it is easy to make speeches, but how many people listen? Many politicians must be used to grand-standing in public to get noticed by voters.
After explaining in detail once again to us laymen how the stock market works and how the scheme worked and what securities are and the debt issues, eventually some different criminal activity is actually uncovered. He exposes some people’s mortgage documents that have white-out in sections and forged signatures that indicate a concealing of information in some cases. The most confusing choice is that the complicated “pattern of financial crime” is explained while showing black and white old fashioned footage of a three-ring circus. It’s a very distracting backdrop that makes it more difficult to listen to the facts and you might have to rewind a few times to catch it all.
He explores the story from a few different perspectives including the education process for stock brokers and what behavior is encouraged and the stress on hedge funds. The conspiracy of the downfall of certain banks happening within short periods of time is summarized once more. The little people given mortgages they could not afford are paraded before the camera in protesting t-shirts and once again are not liable for taking on unaffordable debt in the first place. Adjustable rate mortgages are an easy enough to avoid trap, but the problem has gotten too big with no one taking responsibility.
My biggest complaint about this documentary is that many of the additional videos put in of C-SPAN and research footage have the digital quality of a greatly enlarged YouTube video and are very pixel-y. I wish they were easier to see because I know there are better copies out there because I watched Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story” and he used some of the exact same speeches from Ohio politicians. Otherwise it is yet again a delving into the financial crisis, but with a slightly different perspective and a few new facts.
There are two short featurettes, “John Kenneth Galbraith and the History of Wall Street Crime” and “Sex on Wall Street”. Both of these have nothing to do with the “crime” or financial crisis and just expose scandal of other sorts and are completely off topic for the documentary.
The interview with Plunder Director Danny Schechter is a more much interesting featurette as it just gives a behind-the-scenes frank candid monologue from Schechter explaining his point of view and why he took the stance and perspective he did in this film. He summarizes the short version of the entire movie, but his passion is very evident in his delivery. It isn’t new material, just his defense of his movie and how he came to his conclusions and what he thinks needs to happen in the future for prosecuting the criminals and explain to the public.