With our global economy tanking and everyone peering gloomily forward to a multi-year recession that has us asking, “How could we let this happen?” I figure it’s time to give credit where credit (pun intended) is due in the doc world. Who grabbed that Wall Street bull (ok, no more puns from here on) by the horns and took a good look at where this beast was going? My favorite economy-related doc is 2003’s The Corporation, that fascinating look at the corporate body as if it were legally a person, and giving that nutjob a full-on psychological examination. And then there’s Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Alex Gibney‘s examination of how that company rose to glory and then fell on its face. I’d consider Michael Moore‘s Roger & Me a compelling look at our economic system as well, and it provides a strong, if mostly emotional, critique of the car industry and corporate America.
I.O.U.S.A. by Patrick CreadomBut the guy who gets to sit alone in a chair and wag his finger, is Patrick Creadon, who directed Wordplay in 2006, and who brought us I.O.U.S.A. this summer. The film is still in three theaters, but if you missed it, you’re going to have to catch it later on DVD. Or pick up the book now.
I saw the doc at Sundance this year, and I have to say I dozed off, which I hate to admit, because it is a sad metaphor for how many of us treated this impending crisis. I, like most of us, knew that things weren’t good, I just didn’t take the close look I should have. Well, by getting off his butt and making this film, Creadon did. The doc discusses how the U.S. is on the brink of financial meltdown, and looks at our national debt, really hammering home the basic idea that we, as a nation, have always had to rely on borrowed money to sustain ourselves, and how that puts us at risk. Say it ain’t so! Well, kudos to Creadon — I plan on looking at his film again when I can, and seeing if the doc has more of an impact on me.
I’ll just add that I’d excuse POV, because its mandate is to present personal viewpoints on things, and it isn’t really the place to have a doc examining the economy. Whether it has, in the past, I am sure someone will note here soon. I think it’s interesting to note that Frontline, however, normally on the edge of hard-hitting critical thinking on national concerns, has been lacking in this department lately. From what I can recall — and what I could cull from their own archives — Frontline hasn’t done much on the economy as of late. It has looked at Wal-Mart, the tax system and several shows about Wall Street, but those are all years old. I wonder what gives over there. Hopefully, there’s something to come.

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Tom Roston
Tom Roston is a guest columnist for POV's documentary blog. He is a former Premiere magazine senior editor, who graduated from Brown University and started his career in journalism at The Nation and then Vanity Fair. Tom's freelance work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The Hollywood Reporter and other publications. He has written several Kindle Singles, including the bestselling Kindle Singles Interview: Ken Burns. Tom's current list of favorite documentaries are: 1. Koyanisqaatsi by Godfrey Reggio; 2. Hoop Dreams by Steve James; 3.Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley; 4.Crumb by Terry Zwigoff; 5. Montage of Heck by Brett Morgen