Guest Post By Film Creator John Titus
Bailout: an unemployed Chicago lawyer (moi) stops paying his mortgage and enlists four friends (also unemployed) to join him on a trip in a Winnebago to Las Vegas, where we plan to tear a page out of Wall Street’s book and piss away other people’s money gambling, etc.
Along the way we interview Americans adversely affected by the financial crisis, principally through foreclosures. In between these interviews and the action in the Winnebago, a handful of bloggers and journalists walk viewers through several financial frauds that have robbed—and continue to rob—Americans from top to bottom.
The names in this latter group will be familiar even to casual readers of economics and financial blogs like Daily Bail. In addition to Megremis, we explore the crisis with Karl Denninger, Dylan Ratigan, Yves Smith, and Christopher Whalen. They do an absolutely dynamite job of explaining the causes of the crisis to mom and pop.
Viewers also hear from Tom Dart, the Cook County Illinois sheriff who’s stood up to the banks by thwarting various foreclosure efforts more than once, as well as from linguistics professor Noam Chomsky and journalist Chris Hedges.
So let it not be said that we cover only one side of the old guard political spectrum; indeed that absurdly false and misleading divide is depicted in the film for what it is—the butt of a bad joke that’s overdue for a richly deserved death. Thus viewers see a “leftist” like Chomsky bashing Barack Obama and while witnessing beat downs of George Bush and Hank Paulson by free market capitalists.
Bailout includes archival footage of the usual suspects on Wall Street and Washington, D.C. But personally, after months of watching reel upon reel of these cretins nearly perjure themselves (when not answering questions that were never put to them), Director Sean Fahey and I had to replace three of them with puppets. Yeah, puppets and Jose Cuervo were the only things that kept us sane.
The crazy layer cake that is Bailout is held together by the narration of stand-up comedian John Fox, who mans the Winnebago through the streets of Vegas, where he has a week-long gig at the Tropicana’s comedy club. Foxy’s wild man antics are legendary among funnymen.
“I tell fuck jokes for a living,” Fox growls in a baritone rasp. He’s got that voice.
Fox lived a half-block down my street for 10 years before moving to California to be closer to his family. He was actually a canary in the coalmine of the financial crisis, as comedy clubs closed and downsized throughout 2006-07 and Fox’s income dropped 75%.
That collapse was the first of many signs that our economy was dying of certain causes—never explored or even acknowledged in the media—that drove me to blogs, where the truth is important enough for actual discussion. It also meant Foxy stayed in our neighborhood a lot more often, and we became as close as brothers as a result. I’ll have more to say about Foxy in a later post.
What resulted from all of this is a documentary about the financial crisis like no other. Bailout has several angles that distinguish it from many outstanding predecessors. First, the TARP bailout is not only decried, but roundly debunked as a total sham. To this day, TARP remains Congress’s costliest outrage and is arguably its greatest slap ever to the face to middle America, which overwhelmingly—and correctly—opposed the legislation that transformed our political landscape forever.
Second, Bailout focuses on unchecked criminal fraud that lies at the root of the crisis. Not greed. Not deregulation. Not free markets. Not income inequality. Not threadbare left-right politics. No. Fraud—and the official refusal to punish fraud or indeed to uphold the rule of law at all—lies at the root of our ills. Bailout describes several frauds in granular detail that you just don’t see anywhere else.
Third, Bailout relies a lot less on its narrator for evidence and a lot more on its witnesses. By way of comparison, the narration in Bailout accounts for less than 14% (by word count) of the movie; Matt Damon’s narration of Inside Job more than doubles that figure. In Bailout, there are more and longer uninterrupted sequences of financial experts going back and forth on a given topic; our goal was to let viewers listen in on conversations among people who actually know what they’re talking about.
Finally, Bailout is a call to action. Too many documentaries to count have done a great job of royally pissing us off while at the same time leaving me shaking our heads: what in the Sam Hill should we do with our outrage? Not Bailout, amigos.