Cannes films tap drama of financial crisis

The scorched earth of the financial world has yielded a rich harvest for film-makers at the Cannes film festival, where documentaries and dramas are tapping the emotion behind the crisis.

Among the non-fiction at the world's biggest film event, "Inside Job" by US documentary-maker Charles Ferguson hit critics hard on Saturday with a surgical analysis of who caused the financial crisis and how.

A cocktail of financial deregulation and near-psychotic behaviour was to blame for the meltdown, it suggests, cranking up the emotions with swift editing, stirring music and a voice-over by Hollywood star Matt Damon.

"I think this is the first comprehensive film about the crisis," Ferguson told AFP. "This was a bank robbery that was committed by the man who owns the bank. Before he robbed the bank he paid off the police."

Last year another US film-maker, Michael Moore, released "Capitalism: A Love Story", but critics in Cannes judged Ferguson's film a more weighty effort.

"Ironically, (this) anti-capitalist commodity could well become a money-maker," wrote the top film magazine Variety.

"Inside Job" points the finger at individuals including former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who like a number of other key players declined to be interviewed.

Ferguson fills their silence with other witnesses: government ministers, bankers, lobbyists, economists and a psychologist, plus a Manhattan madame who said she fixed call girls for top bosses at all the major investment banks.

In a smaller-scale documentary at Cannes meanwhile, "Cleveland Versus Wall Street", Swiss film-maker Jean-Stephane Bron staged a mock-trial pitting ruined homeowners against the banks and lenders they blame for misleading them.

"I think that this movie can do a lot to make people aware of what really caused this problem," said Josh Cohen, the lawyer for the homeowners in the film.

It can "make them understand that the foreclosure crisis wasn't just something that happened, there are people responsible."

One of those hit by the US subprime mortgage crisis that sparked the worldwide meltdown was Barbara Anderson, a Cleveland woman who appears in Bron's film and came to Cannes to promote it.

"I'm a long way from satisfied" by the US authorities' efforts to find who is to blame and help those affected, she said.

In the fictional world, Oliver Stone's muscular "Wall Street" sequel hit the festival last week, with the villain of his 1987 rogue trading drama Gordon Gekko using his predatory skills to try and do the right thing by his family.

One character, a bank chief played by US actor Frank Langella, was inspired by bosses from the ruined banks Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, Stone said. He said the film was a comment on the excesses of the financial system.

"In 1987 I thought it was going to correct itself, I really did. But it didn't," he said. "Shareholders and CEOs made money, working people did not. There's a tremendous injustice and inequality in that."

Ferguson saw his own film as a campaigning force that can provoke audiences into action. "I'm optimistic that pressure is building," he said. "People are starting to get angry."

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