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Heist: Who Stole the American Dream? And How We Can Get It Back

Though myriad aspects of its story have already been probed in greater depth elsewhere, Frances Causey and Donald Goldmacher's "Heist" is well timed as a one-stop summary of reasons for ordinary Americans to be furious at our financial systems.

With:
With: Lou Mattis, Jeff Faux, Leo Gerard, Deepak Ghargava, Donna Edwards, Bernie Sanders, Jakada Imani, Robert Kuttner, Kimber Lanning, Robert Crandall, Nomi Prins, Elizabeth Warren, David Cay Johnston, Michael Lind, David Brock, Drew Westen, David John, Leslie Griffith, Alan Blinder, Kim Berry, Lawrence E. Mitchell, Van Jones, Gar Alperovitz, Jovana Beckles, David Green. Narrator: Thom Hartmann.

Though myriad aspects of its story have already been probed in greater depth elsewhere, Frances Causey and Donald Goldmacher’s “Heist” is well timed as a one-stop summary of reasons for ordinary Americans to be furious at our financial systems. Its last third turns from compiling past outrages to encouraging activism, making this snappy, solid docu an ideal candidate for savvy distribs to jump on immediately. With grassroots marketing, pic could ride the wave of burgeoning Occupy Wall Street-related protests as a ready-made primer.

Filmmakers posit the Great Depression as a sort of “good old days,” policy-wise, in that government response then to economic collapse brought on by reckless fiscal speculation was to impose strong regulatory measures protecting average citizens from corporate and/or market malfeasance. That led to a postwar era in which America’s economic well-being soared, as did the affluence and comfort of its workforce.

Flashforward to 1971, which Causey and Goldmacher point to as the beginning of a “brilliantly executed coup” by conservative business and political kingmakers that gradually dismantled FDR’s progressive New Deal policies by buying Congressional votes to implement a corporate makeover of America.

Pic charts this campaign growing out from lobbyists and right-wing think tanks to assault worker benefits, wages and union representation. With the arrival of the “Reagan revolution,” policy shifts that hugely favored corporate profit over consumer well-being were packaged as liberation from wasteful government spending.

Globalization trends in the 1990s sent jobs out of the country and to the cheapest foreign bidders under the banner of free trade. Deregulation allowed banking and investment industries to party like 1929, creating speculative bubbles that could burst to catastrophic effect, though seldom with much consequence for their wealthy engineers. Meanwhile, previously unlawful media monopolies helped turn public awareness from critical analysis of the real issues toward Paris Hilton.

Pic stresses these developments aren’t just a matter of “Republican villainy,” fingering Presidents Clinton and even Obama for some of the worst decisions prizing moneyed insiders’ interests above those of voters.

Last half-hour offers a whirlwind checklist of recommended tactics aimed at organizing people to wrest control back from organized money. The helmers plan to add some footage from the recent “Occupy” movements; indeed, “Heist’s” late glimpses of “people power gaining critical mass” look puny amid the activist momentum that’s swept across numerous countries since its current edit, suggesting the pic might bear continued retooling as it reaches further fest, theatrical and home-format outlets.

Fast-paced package is always cogent, engaging and pro.

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Heist: Who Stole the American Dream? And How We Can Get It Back

Docu

Production: A Connecting the Dots production. Produced by Donald Goldmacher, Frances Causey. Executive producers, Earl Katz, Sally Holst. Directed by Frances Causey, Donald Goldmacher. Written by Causey, Hollis Rich.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Rogelio Garcia; editor, Garcia; music, David Raiklen; music supervisors, Raiklen, Goldmacher; graphics, Matthew Baldwin; sound, Fred Porter. Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, Oct. 17, 2011. (In Mill Valley Festival -- Valley of the Docs.) Running time: 84 MIN.

Cast: With: Lou Mattis, Jeff Faux, Leo Gerard, Deepak Ghargava, Donna Edwards, Bernie Sanders, Jakada Imani, Robert Kuttner, Kimber Lanning, Robert Crandall, Nomi Prins, Elizabeth Warren, David Cay Johnston, Michael Lind, David Brock, Drew Westen, David John, Leslie Griffith, Alan Blinder, Kim Berry, Lawrence E. Mitchell, Van Jones, Gar Alperovitz, Jovana Beckles, David Green. Narrator: Thom Hartmann.

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