Saturday, September 23, 2017

On video -- at last -- Richard Brouillette's brilliant, necessary economic-theory twosome: ENCIRCLEMENT and ONCLE BERNARD

Twelve years in the making -- and worth every last minute of those years -- ENCIRCLEMENT is the documentary product of French-Canadian filmmaker Richard Brouillete in which, via economists, philosophers and (in the words of the film's press material, with which I would agree) "some of the world's most transformational thinkers," he confronts the west's ideological conformism and brainwashing regarding the neo-liberal philosophy that still controls so many of today's so-called western "democracies."

One of those "thinkers" is Bernard Maris, aka Oncle (Uncle) Bernard, whom we see bits of in Entitlement. In ONCLE BERNARD, the 80-minute interview devoted entirely to the noted economists's views, we get the full dose of the late M. Maris, and it is a revelation. I have never heard any economist speak more intelligently, cogently, forcefully or entertainingly about the situation in which the western world has placed itself, thanks to the idiocy and horror of neo-liberalism -- the primary tool of the wealthy, corporate and powerful.

What M. Brouillette, shown at right, has done here is simply give us the major explanation for why the world and its people, particularly in the west, but also in most-if-not-all developing countries, is growing poorer, while the rich, as ever, grow richer and "business" and the banks keep reaping larger profits at the expense of the populace. Yes, this is "left-wing" stuff, but so expertly and honestly do these talking heads, in particular Oncle Bernard, lay out their case that anyone with a genuinely inquiring mind will have trouble negating what s/he has learned here.

TrustMovies watched Oncle Bernard first, since this doc lasts only 80 minutes, while Entitlement goes on for two hours and 23 minutes. (I needn't have worried about length, however. Once into the latter film, I was soon and permanently hooked.) Bernard Maris (shown above and below) is simply an amazement: Listening to and learning from him proves an unalloyed treat. Whether he's talking about economic theory as a kind of religious faith or the pointless and perverse pretense of confidence and transparency, the "neutral" unemployment rate, and inflation and lending, Maris is an alert, funny and exemplary teacher.

This black-and-white film, during which, every ten minutes or so, the reel must be changed, has a delightful, old-fashioned (the interview was filmed in March of 2000), off-the-cuff charm that is contagious. By the time our "Uncle" arrives at derivatives and pension funds (remember: this interview took place well prior to the upcoming financial crisis), as well as how the banks (even back then) were reporting only half of their transactions and so were consequently under no real government control, it will hit you just how special this economist was and what a loss it is to have had him murdered at the hands of the terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo in 2015.

In fact, watching and listening to Maris and how he takes apart France and its governments, you may find yourself wondering if, after all, that Charlie Hebdo massacre wasn't an inside job. Really: How could a man this set on telling truth to power -- and then spreading that truth all around -- be allowed to live?

The subtitle of Encirclement is NEO-LIBERALISM ENSNARES DEMOCRACY, and once you've experienced this combination of history, economic theory, and very, very smart talking heads, you wont just understand this ensnarement and how it has happened, but you'll probably be quite able to explain it all to your children and parents, too. The documentary is that clear, concise, and rigorous. My biggest quibble is that I wish that M. Brouillette had identified all his speakers as each first appeared, rather than waiting until the end to show us their names. Consequently, although I can remember what was said, I can't recall in many cases who said it.

Still, what an array of speakers we have here, and after all, it's what they say that proves most important. One early fellow explains how both left and right adhere to this same neo-liberal theory,  (I did not know that Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's government transformed public companies into private at the same rate as did right-wing governments.) We get plenty of theory here, as well as some interesting info on the men who gave it to us. I did not realize that Hayek -- Friedrich not Salma -- held Utopian views that benefited society's strongest, rather than its under-privileged. (One of the many speakers here is the stalwart Noam Chomsky, below.)

Rather than simply giving us the Collectivist/Socialist talking heads, Brouillette allows neo-liberal thinkers to pontificate, too. And he offers them plenty of time -- and rope -- with which to hang themselves. They do. After one fellow's lengthy, ridiculous speech, my spouse (who does not follow economics at all closely) called out from the bathroom, "What a bunch of bullshit that was!"  Another Libertarian tries to explain how privatizing water would help solve both our environmental and economic problems, and the result is pure, sad hilarity.

Toward the end of this truly monumental undertaking, Susan George (the political scientist, rather than the actress) and others tackle the WMF, World Bank and WTO and show us, point by point in wonderful detail, how these organizations have toppled democracy and especially how they are decimating developing countries. The doc was made prior to the 2008-and-beyond financial collapse, but what these organizations have done since the turn of the century -- hello Greece! -- is equally disgusting. Another quibble, however: I do wish the filmmaker had not used such heavy-handed piano music on his soundtrack. The information we get here is troubling and important enough not to need unnecessary goosing from the musical score.

Otherwise, Encirclement is a masterwork of its kind. I can't imagine any intelligent, pro-active viewer who cares about the direction of western society not immediately giving it a view. Or two. From IndiePix Films, both Encirclement and Oncle Bernard will be available as of this coming Tuesday, September 26, on DVD, digital HD and via IndiePix Unlimited's new streaming service -- for purchase and/or rental.

No comments: