Charles Ferguson is no stranger to the political exposé. His first documentary, “No End in Sight,” garnered numerous accolades and an Oscar nomination in 2008 for its investigative look at the Iraqi war — specifically, at how the Bush Administration had been, and still was, effing things up.

Last night, the Clog fought tooth and nail (or stood in line for about an hour) to attend the PFA’s premier screening of Ferguson’s second and latest documentary: “Inside Job,” which breaks down the 2008 global financial crisis to its bare-boned roots of government corruption and economic fraud, in no uncertain or remotely subdued terms.

The work is, in a word, dramatic. That it opens with soaring shots of Icelandic natural wonders, followed by an opening credit sequence of a skyscraper montage set to Peter Gabriel at his most epic, seems a tad grandiose until one starts to grasp the true scale of Ferguson’s undertaking. “Inside Job” seeks to encapsulate the intricacies of investment banking and securitization, to explain the perils of derivatives and deregulation, to sift through the past several decades of corporate demoralization and societal neglect in search of distinguishable cause and effect — all in a reasonably accessible way … in two meager hours of film.

[By the by, did we mention that Matt Damon narrates throughout?]

“Inside Job” may feel slightly overwhelming in terms of sheer scope, but considering its thematic content, the effect is pretty appropriate. Through interviews with key execs; flow charts depicting the route of assets through financial institutions and the process by which investment firms like Goldman Sachs were able to bet against (and make absurdly high profits from) their own customers; and amusing moments like the feature on Kristin Davis, Wall Street’s favorite prostitute, Ferguson renders the facts of our current recession unbelievably staggering and unavoidably real.

Moreover, even if the film occasionally registers as information overload, it’s neither messy nor meaningless; the delivery is logical, the momentum stable, and the director’s ideological bias only intermittently heavy-handed. Well, maybe a bit more than intermittently, but he’s certainly no Michael Moore. There are a handful of rather uncomfortable clips interviews wherein Ferguson mercilessly antagonizes an increasingly defensive subject, but given the overall context — big banks devastating the world economy, blockading reform, making off filthy rich and scot-free — we’d likely be inclined to do the same.

Given the predominantly positive reaction “Inside Job” encountered at the PFA, we’ll be very interested to see how it’s received upon wider release in the coming weeks. We’re also keen to hear your thoughts on the brief attention given to universities like UC Berkeley toward the end of the film. Corruption extends even to the classroom — e.g., economics professors in power. A scary thought, no?

Image Source: SEIU International under Creative Commons

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