Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Peter Joseph's ZEITGEIST: the Movie & its Addendum make powerful, pointed--if Utopian--viewing


When, a few months back, TrustMovies received a request to take a look at a film called ZEITGEIST: THE MOVIE, he said, sure -- send it. And there it sat on his fireplace mantel (where he keeps his "To Watch" pile) for a long while. He knew practically nothing about the film -- which is often the case: maintaining as close to a tabula rasa as possible strikes him as beneficial to both movie-maker and viewer. When he finally stuck the DVD into his player last Saturday morning, so impressed (with reservations) was he that he spent four hours-plus viewing Z-The Movie and its companion disc ZEITGEIST: ADDENDUM with which he was even more impressed (and about which he had even more reservations).

Can you embrace a documentary even as you are resisting its "overkill" touch? This question crops up time and again, especially during the beginning and end of both films, though, as we shall see, these offer quite a bit more than a documentary double bill. It's more like a call to arms -- especially Z-Addendum. Many of the visuals in the early and late sections of the two films are so obvious as to be boring, and the filmmaker's use of repetition -- repeating words or phrases ad infinitum (complete with an echo chamber!) can be grueling. Well, it's sometimes a heavy hand that renders the truth. A possible truth, at least -- because the first of the films deals at length with what many will term "conspiracy theories" that includes 9/11, Vietnam, WWII and even WWI (remember the Lusistania!).

The first part of Peter Joseph's film (though, according to an argument on Wikipedia, this is not the filmmaker's real name) tackles organized religion and wrestles it to the mat by showing us how, in religious myth after religious myth, a "virgin birther" comes along, grows up, teaches the masses and is killed -- only to rise from the dead. Uh-huh. Yet Mr. Joseph's (I believe it is he -- shown below -- who narrates the film) history of religion and its leaders proves genuinely interesting and thought-provoking.

Part two of the film uses some of the that same idiot repetition to uncover that 9/11 was an inside job. If you have watched other of those 9/11 conspiracy films (as I have), you'll have a difficult time discounting all of what is being said. By now any halfway intelligent adult should know that our leaders are, time after time, war after war, as deceitful to their own people as they are deadly to whomever is being "fought." So what? Because both of our politics parties, as these films make clear, are beholden to the greater "money" party, we can hardly expect to change this overnight, if at all. More of that repetition occurs. How stupid does Joseph imagine his audience to be? Very. At one point (in the second film, I believe) he compares us to sheep who no longer even need a sheep dog to keep us in line. I agree with the guy. We too often are exactly that.

Part three, by far the most interesting section, offers a history of who owns our government. Joseph takes on the banking industry (the interest rate, money supply, loans and debt) and then the IRS (at this point the film comes perilously close to some of the more crackpot ideas of Libertarianism). Throughout his film Joseph relies a great deal on the use of snippets from Network, the 34-year-old collaboration of Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky -- a prescient movie if ever there was one -- and these bits made me realize anew why I watch so little television.

What is often left out of all this, however, is any sense of psychology: Freud, for goodness sake.  Governments do not exist in a vacuum but are the extension of their people, whose need for power and adulation, coupled with an enormous ability for denial and hypocrisy, has produced the world as we know it.  The moral here, which Joseph spells out toward the conclusion, is that "a continually fraudulent Zeitgeist is output via the mass media, religion and the education system to keep us in a distracted, naive bubble."  Yes.

The filmmaker's finale, however, seems itself almost religious, though not your standard Christian, Jewish or Muslim variety.  Instead, it's a philosophy based on -- ready? -- love.  Oh, please.  If you plan to watch the two Zeitgests, I would suggest fast-forward-
ing past the beginning and skipping the epilogue, too.  But watch and listen with full concentration to Parts I, II and III.  You'll want to argue with Joseph from time to time, but compared to most of the pap we're fed, I suspect you'll feel rather nourished by the film.

Zeitgeist: Addendum, released 15 months after the first installment, is in widescreen format, while Z: The Movie appeared in TV-size mode. After another unnecessarily arty/farty opening, Joseph concentrates on our monetary system, the Federal Reserve, inflation, and currency debasement.  Following his theses and arguments is a real pleasure; this guy is smart.  He uses a number of talking heads in the second film, one of which is a fellow who calls himself an economic hit man who used to work for our government.  He tells us about the USA's involvement in destabilizing governments from Iran (in the 50s) to Guatamala, Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela, and Bolviia's recent water-for-sale scandal.  At times, you'll be reminded of Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine, at others of V for Vendetta or the latest James Bond film. (We even hear from the late Jim Garrison: yikes!)

Following this we get an interesting take on techno-
logy, which leads us to the heart of the matter: The Venus Project and the attempt to go from a Capitalistic, profit-based society to a resource-based society.  While The Venus Project immediately strikes me as Utopian, Joseph does offer, via words from the project's initiators Jacque Fresco and Roxanne Meadows at least a raison d'etre for the undertaking.  His discussion of alternative energy -- wind, solar and especially GeoThermal (which I knew little about) is worth hearing.

Joseph then covers emergent and symbiotic aspects of natural law, stressing our "interconnectedness."  How might all these new ideas come about?  Peaceful protest is one way, and the filmmaker even offers a list of things you can do to bring about change: Start by moving your bank account -- should you bank with the big (nefarious) three: Citicorp, Chase or Bank of America -- to another bank.  But who's to say that within months, due to some new merger, you won't be right back with the big boys again?

TrustMovies recommends watching these Zeitgeist films.  Each is more than worth your time -- and you'll learn a lot.  Mr. Joseph's venting against the profit motive does not seem hypocritical, either.  These are perhaps the first and only films, after the viewing of which, I have seen on-screen: "Duplication of this educational film is granted and encouraged for non-resale, education purposes only.  Not-for-profit public screenings are also encouraged and require no permission from us." 

You can legally download and watch Zeitgeist: The Movie and Zeitgeist: Addendum by clicking here (then scroll down)  Further, there's a worldwide event planned for March 13, 2010: Z-Day. 
Click here and then click on this event for further information about what's happening in your neck of the world's woods....

2 comments:

man with desire said...

This article refutes and disproves claims of Zeitgeist movie, from the part of Christianity:

http://koti.phnet.fi/petripaavola/zeitgeist_movie.html

I suggest to read the article!

James van Maanen, said...

Well, Man With Desire, I read your screed but it does not persuade me in the least. If other readers want to try their hand at it, too, they are welcome to type in that http address and have a look -- though it is long and heavy going, and the English is perhaps not all we might want it to be. Mostly, though, you have directed us to a plea/rationale for worshiping god. And for those of us who are having none of her/him/it, your long exhortation will not be convincing. I'll stick with Mr. Joseph and his Zeitgeist, thank you.