Some documentarians sit down with their subjects and let them talk, allowing people to either tell the truth or spin fabulous lies and prove them right or wrong with footage or editing. Charles Ferguson, on the other hand, had a bone to pick with many of the interviewees for Inside Job, and he didn't hold back. Interviewing a slew of financial experts and economists to examine exactly how and why the global banking system neared collapse in 2008, Ferguson talked to plenty of people interested in making excuses for Wall Street, or even arguing that the massively inflated bonuses common in the industry were deserved. Ferguson frequently shot back, and over the course of the film you see some of the subjects grow increasingly uncomfortable, even hostile, when they realize this is a documentarian bent on leaving no stone unturned.
As a result Inside Job is an unusually stirring film, not just explaining the tangle of acronyms and legalese that defined the financial crisis, but happily nailing the culprits to the wall, including many of the interview subjects. As Ferguson and some of his expert interviewees argue, it's not just that many of the people behind the Wall Street crash went unpunished, but plenty are still in positions of power, including as high-ranking financial advisers in the Obama administration. The "inside job" of the title doesn't just refer to the 2008 disaster, but an ongoing process of the rich taking more money from the quickly vanishing middle class.
As you might imagine, my interview with Ferguson following his film's New York Film Festival press screening was pretty heavy, going over all these topics, his tactic for confronting his interview subjects, and how we can have hope even knowing all the facts of his film. Check out all the very, very smart things he had to say below. Inside Job opens in limited release this weekend, and is pretty much the definition of a must-see documentary.
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