27.6.11

Why are we here?

It took several weeks until I got the chance to watch this movie I have been hoping to see for a long time: Inside Job, directed by Charles H. Ferguson. An in-depth study seems appropriate for who wishes to understand the purpose of the section "Architecture Without Architects", a broader idea of architecture and territory, that goes beyond such discipline and besides, it won’t leave you indifferent.



Top, empty evicted houses. Bottom “Tent City” a camp for people who were evicted from their homes, Florida.

Regardless of its documentary value, this film deserves to be studied as a film of great cinematographic quality. As in the trilogy Qatsi, it achieves a poetic that even though it is obvious, it does not stop being subtle or boastful, like for example, in a Michael Moore documentary (hugs, Michael Moore). The movie captures the impact of both the economic bubble and the Global Financial Crisis on the landscape. It is not easy but the movie ends up doing it very effectively. Besides, through those symbolic landscapes, it manages to express that level of information that would have never been achieved with an article or a direct and detailed essay. In this narrative strategy, the script is well structured, an exemplary exercise. At times filmmakers, within the same movie, tell a micro-story that entails all the poetic symbolism contained in the main story in order to find a better understanding of the narration, allowing the audience to enjoy the plot withdrawing attention from information. This also happens in Inside Job with the micro example of Iceland, when he explains his particular “way of the cross” and then explains a more complex global process with one of its major epicentres in the United States. His way of explaining the case, the visual accompaniment of the landscapes, its exploitation and the impact generated by the crisis, is the gateway to the case in North America, executed with extraordinarily beauty, if you can say so.

It is obvious that it makes no sense to talk about this movie from a poetic or visual point of view, as this strategy is oriented to make its content more understandable and realistic (we will speak about the aesthetics of veracity some other day).
The truth is that talking about a complex matter such as the circumstances that generated the global financial crisis, is the reason why I believe that the analysis and repercussions of this film were paused: the delicate and complex matters that this movie covers, not really knowing how to assume them as well as the indignation that they bring along.
But there are some significant questions on a narrative level that deserved to be told and remain totally clear in Inside Job.




Provoked Crisis: We all suspected the bubble was going to explode, it was not normal… But how is this bubble created? Is it as simple as getting a loan or building as much as you can? In this movie we get to know not only how it was created, which is understandable, but also to discover (not suspect but clearly discover) the interests that generate a crisis of these characteristics. Yes, interest in generating a crisis, like the regularisation created after the recession of the Great Crash in 1929, dismantled in the 80’s that generated the foundations of what has been happening since the 90’s. Such deregulation was strongly defended (this means aggressively) by those who generated the madness of finance investors and mortgage insurer providers, not because they believed in deregulation or liberalism but because they used it to swindle an entire society. Simply, to the question of how investors can be interested in generating a crisis, the answer is very clear: investing in the ruin of society.
Investing counter-clockwise: This is one of the strongest arguments of the movie, the expressive and diagrammatical capacity manifested in the landscape, and the schemes with architectural symbolism that explain enough complex operations for the masterminds of the frauds not to be punished from any action.
How do you lie to a system? The so-called deregulation allowed mortgages (not only small mortgage owners but the big investments of local governments or even entire nations) to move from mortgage lenders to large financial institutions that insured such investment operations. This is the main question of the global fraud: while those investors paid the insurance (the same way you pay for your motorbike insurance), the deregulation allowed speculators to invest in those insurances (that is, 5 more people paying for your insurance), and the insurers received big bonuses for this massive selling. It is clear now that this kind of procedure was extremely risky, as clearly if the mortgage for which no one took responsibility was unpaid, the insurer had to pay the money invested in it to those who invested in the potential non-payment of the mortgage.
This is what led AIG, one of the largest insurers of the world, to the ruin and later forced those who created it (like Henry Paulson, Ben Bernecke and Tim Geithner) to conduct the most expensive economic rescue in History by means of the Federal Reserve. But those responsible would not care anymore as they would have earned their bonuses and had got their shares. On top of that, to ensure everything would run smoothly, they would recommend the subprime mortgage investments as a safe value, knowing that the majority would not be payed, so they could invest counter-clockwise. They basically made a Chihuahua race against a Greyhound to close a safe bet for the Greyhound.

Henry Paulson, Ben Bernake and Tim Geithner, three sassy ones.

How come this was legal? : This is the most quixotic bit, those who took part in this meanness fraud were not nihilist yuppies but people holding important positions and US political advisers since the Reagan era, who consolidated the deregulation.
Names like Alan Greenspan (Chairman of the Federal Reserve and adviser to all the US Governments since Bush Senior), Ben Bernanke (Chairman of the Federal Reserve and adviser to Bush Junior), Henry Paulson (adviser and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury) and others, created favourable reports for the insurers and CDO’s, convinced investors, opposed to the regularisation and became multimillionaire with this operation knowing everything would eventually collapse.

Top, Robert Gnaizda, bottom,  Nouriel Roubini, some of the experts who warned the Government and the Federal Reserve in different ways (Geek note: As in the case of Roubini, some of the experts were interviewed at the terrace of SANAA’s New Museum, to give a sensation of an elegant cleared office.)
We all suspected that the bubble would explode and almost all of us thought that it was inevitable and a consequence of capitalism, but it is not true that we did not know how, or that there would not be any chance to avoid it. There were important specialists who spent years trying to achieve the regularisation or declare certain practices illegal. We are not talking about anti capitalism activists but influential people who were heard by the financial elites, like Reghuram Rajan (Chief Economist of the International Monetary Found) or Robert Gnaizda (Director for the Greenlining Institute) who met all the heads of the Federal Reserve during Clinton and Bush era (that is almost 16 years) warning of all the matters that made the system burst. Even within AIG, Joseph St. Denis, an internal auditor, gave up his bonus and was expelled for denouncing the practices of the company.

Pictures of Inside Job, reflection of
the avarice and excess of investors and speculators.

Evil Teaching: One of the elements to be grateful for in this documentary is the analysis of the subtly introduced cannibal speculative concepts in the economic culture. Ferguson explains how experts and heads of the most renowned US universities worked as advisors for different government departments and parallel they worked for the finance institutions that led to the fraud, with the aggravation of using their educational structures and their articles to influence the investment culture and in the other hand, to invest in the collapse of the economy. More surprising is to discover that the plot, the details and the nuances are so complex, that no one is aware of being part of the scam.  Currently almost all the perpetrators remain within Obama’s administration. This factor makes them believe that no one else knows the extent of their responsibility although they eventually get caught off guard: the filmmaker knows about it. This defines some of the best moments of the film, awkward silences after awkward questions, refusals to be interviewed, professors gulping, university executives and governmental authorities thinking that their impunity is related to a further understanding of the situation.

Glenn Hubbard, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under President George W. Bush and professor of economics and finance at Columbia, who used his academic influence in his own benefit, like Martin Feldstein (Harvard). He is a perennial contender for the Nobel Economics Prize.
Hyper realist horror movie: On many social fields we have been adventurous with the repercussions of the crisis. We have heard that things like “they should pay off” or “is this going to blow? Let it blow!”, are expressions willing to bring the change or the hope that the generation of a systemic crisis will allow the creation of new social and economic models. This is the question that makes critics to ironically define the Inside Job as a horror movie, the clairvoyant idea that the movie transmits that in any case we are facing a systematic crisis nor the situation will bring changes in the global economy. Neither the lobbies or the economic elites are disrupted, the system has improved and unlike the Crash of 29, there are no investors jumping out of their window offices in Manhattan but an increasingly impoverished society as a result of every crisis. The system tests its limits and ensures even better the survival of its elites.  I was reading Rem Koolhaas (hugs, Rem Koolhass) giving his views on China saving the capitalist society. This documentary proves he is right as the high degree of regularisation in china has allowed the US financial elites to have drawn overboard their society without risking the production systems, knowing they remain protected by the Asian epicentre.

   


Text by Subterritorios.
Original post here. 


Translation by Guillermina Lozano