Friday, May 22, 2020

Florian Opitz's SYSTEM ERROR: Another major and majorly important documentary hits DVD

To hear one of the barons of Brazilian agribusiness droning on about "progress" and the glories of BASF is to feel your very brain slipping away. And then this privileged asshole (shown below, TrustMovies believes) adds insult to injury by asking for "More profit boost, please!"

Ah, Capitalism! And growth. And the impossibility of continuous, sustained economic growth. Which is what SYSTEM ERROR, the latest documentary from German filmmaker Florian Opitz, is all about.

Herr Opitz, shown at left, has a lovely, gracious, never-intrusive way of making certain the camera (cinematography by Andy Lehmann, editing by Frank J. Müller) remains on the interviewee for a few seconds longer than might seem required, particularly when that interviewee is answering questions about, oh, say, the result to the environment or the economy and is clearly either outright fibbing or simply lying-by-omission.

Consequently, we have time to observe the face of said fibber in a quiet but clearly uncomfortable position. This happens a number of times, and each of these proves quite telling and, in its odd fashion, nastily entertaining. It's as though the prevaricator, so far as our learning the truth is concerned, has stuck his head in the noose and jumped off the chair.

It is by now clear to quite a number of the world's citizens that Capitalism has run its course and shown its true colors. "Financial markets are able to heal themselves," is one of my favorite quotes here, but the end of that statement, which might go something like, Sure -- when given a trillion-dollar-bailout by the government is nowhere to be found in the mouth of this particular money maven.

On the side of reality against conformity and propaganda is our ofttimes host, British economist Tim Jackson, of the University of Surrey. He keeps popping the balloons of one after another It's-as-clear-as-the-nose-on-your-face Capitalist propagandizers (consistent sleazebag and former Trump associate, Anthony Scaramucci is among these), who spout the prepared-and-typical only to be undercut by the ideas and statistics offered by the quiet Mr. Jackson (above).

Smart and highly appropriate quotes from a certain Karl Marx dot the documentary and are as pertinent as they are often surprising (unless, unlike me, you've read a ton of Mr. Marx). I rather wish that Opitz has not led off his film with so much info on the state of Brazil because, over the past three years since the film was made, much has changed there (for the worse), and the world is quite aware of all this. Yet even that section is interesting for the way in which Opitz conducts his interviews.

We hear about deregulation, the Flash Crash and other financial sector happenings along the way. By the time an ex-investment/trading guy, very high-level, tells us, "The idea that markets are somehow going to support a very large base of the population and somehow produce returns for that population -- when, in our space, all we try to do is eliminate those returns: I mean, that was our job. It's a very different world than is advertised to the general public," I suspect you will be ready to laugh in the face of those "investment" ads you see all the time on TV.

System Error is an absolutely terrific documentary: smart and measured and full of necessary information. Do stay through the end credits to hear Jackson quote the famous Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci about the particular combination of pessimism and optimism needed to perhaps survive our current time.

From Icarus Home Video, in English, German and Portuguese, with English subtitles as needed, and running 96 minutes, the movie hit home video on DVD at the end of last month and is available now for purchase (and rental via streaming, too). If you were unlucky enough to read the very foolish and dismissive NY Times review of System Error publised a few weeks ago, ignore that and take a chance on this very important film.

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