×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Toronto Film Review: ‘The Price We Pay’

Director Harold Crooks' well-crafted documentary offers a concise, engrossing and occasionally infuriating overview of the ways multinationals avoid taxes by stashing profits in offshore havens.

With:
Brigitte Alepin, William Barclay, Jack Blum, Angus Cameron, John Christensen, Nicolas Colin, Alain Deneault, Stuart Fraser, James Henry, Sam Holloway, Jaron Lanier, Daniel Lebegue, David Marchant, Laura McAuliffe, Krishen Mehta, Ronen Palan, Olivier Payart de Fitz-James, Thomas Ridley, Pascal Saint-Amans, Saskia Sassen, Nicholas Shaxson, Olivier Sivieude, Christophe Soucat, William Taylor, Wallace Turbeville, Lord Adair Turner.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3921454/

Arriving so soon after the first reports of Burger King’s corporate maneuvering to enjoy a whopping big tax break by establishing a new legal address in Canada, “The Price We Pay” seems all the more timely, if not prescient. This well-crafted documentary from director Harold Crooks (“Surviving Progress”) offers a concise, engrossing and occasionally infuriating overview of the ways multinationals avoid taxes by stashing profits in offshore havens  and in the process, according to several onscreen interviewees, seriously undermine the ability of governments to provide services and safety nets for citizens. Although the film most likely will wind up preaching to the converted in limited theatrical and home-screen distribution, it could, ironically, reach a wider audience if it is attacked by the right people.

To provide background, connect dots and, yes, stoke outrage, Crooks has assembled an impressively diverse array of talking heads, many of whom repeatedly emphasize that the tax-dodging and loophole-exploiting practices examined here are, for the most part, perfectly legal. With the system so cunningly rigged, an interviewee pointedly asks, “Why bother with illegalities?”

It’s a system whose beginnings Crooks traces back to the post-WWII U.K., when the city of London evolved into “the mother of all tax havens” after the Bank of England greenlit unregulated offshore trading of U.S. dollars. From the 1980s onward, one thing led to another first in the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas, then in various other locales  until multinationals had access to several territories where they could relocate headquarters (or at least establish legal addresses) and enjoy maximum benefits of minimal taxation. By the end of 2010, according to a Tax Justice Network report cited here, somewhere between 10% to 15% of the world’s wealth, an amount estimated as high as $32 trillion, was safely tucked away in offshore tax havens.

“The Price We Pay” focuses on the fallout of this “tax inversion,” vividly illustrating how income disparity in North America and elsewhere has drastically increased during the past few decades, and how a steadily shrinking middle class is being hit with the triple whammy of diminished employment prospects, heavier tax burdens and fewer “welfare state” protections thanks to an economic system skewed toward the increased enrichment of One Percenters.

Author, tax expert and co-scripter Brigitte Alepin, whose book “La Crise fiscale qui vient” is cited as an inspiration for this documentary, goes so far as to posit that society has come “full circle” since the era of the French Revolution. Others warn that economic inequities such as those described in “The Price We Pay” will only serve to fuel more movements like Occupy Wall Street, and might even pose an existential threat to capitalism itself.

Not surprisingly, Crooks’ interview lineup is conspicuously short on defenders of the status quo. But he does show representatives of Google, Amazon and other corporations defending their tax-avoidance policies during grilling by skeptical members of the U.S. Congress and the British Parliament. It can’t be said that any of these reps come off as particularly persuasive. On the other hand, they do manage to maintain their composure, even when a scolding Brit MP claims what they are doing to game the system is, if not illegal, then “immoral.”

“The Price We Pay” offers a few suggestions for remedies  including the so-called “Robin Hood Tax” on stock trading, something actually supported by the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and George Soros  but even the most optimistic interviewees point out that it will require cooperation between governments to counterbalance the power and influence of multinationals. And as long as countries compete against other countries for jobs and private investments, such co-operation will be difficult, maybe impossible, to achieve and sustain.

In terms of production values, “The Price We Pay” is a slickly polished product. But that in no way diminishes its compelling credibility or its potent impact.

Toronto Film Review: 'The Price We Pay'

Reviewed online, Houston, Sept. 1, 2014. (In Toronto Film Festival  TIFF Docs.) Running time: 92 MIN.

Production: (Documentary Canada) A Filmoption Intl. presentation of an InformAction Films production. Produced by Nathalie Barton.

Crew: Directed by Harold Crooks. Written by Crooks, Brigitte Alepin, inspired by the book “La Crise fiscale qui vient” by Brigitte Alepin. Camera (color, HD), Alex Margineanu; editor, Louis-Martin Paradis; music, Ramachandra Borcar; sound, Benoit Dame, Olivier Leger, Patrick Mauroy; sound designer, Benoit Dame; motion design and graphics, Patrick Doan; assistant director, Nancy Marcotte.

With: Brigitte Alepin, William Barclay, Jack Blum, Angus Cameron, John Christensen, Nicolas Colin, Alain Deneault, Stuart Fraser, James Henry, Sam Holloway, Jaron Lanier, Daniel Lebegue, David Marchant, Laura McAuliffe, Krishen Mehta, Ronen Palan, Olivier Payart de Fitz-James, Thomas Ridley, Pascal Saint-Amans, Saskia Sassen, Nicholas Shaxson, Olivier Sivieude, Christophe Soucat, William Taylor, Wallace Turbeville, Lord Adair Turner.

More Film

  • Kevin Costner Diane Lane

    Kevin Costner, Diane Lane to Reunite in Suspense Thriller 'Let Him Go'

    Focus Features has tapped Kevin Costner and Diane Lane to star as a husband and wife in the suspense thriller “Let Him Go.” The two also collaborated on “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Thomas Bezucha (“The Family Stone”) is set to direct his own screenplay, based on Larry Watson’s novel [...]

  • Chris Hemsworth Hulk Hogan

    Chris Hemsworth to Play Hulk Hogan in Biopic for Netflix

    Netflix is in the early stages of developing a Hulk Hogan biopic with Chris Hemsworth attached to star as the wrestling legend and produce. Netflix has obtained the exclusive life rights and consulting services from Terry Gene Bollea AKA Hulk Hogan. Todd Phillips, whose credits include “War Dogs” and “The Hangover” trilogy, is attached to [...]

  • Rooftop Films Announces Filmmakers Fund Grant

    Rooftop Films Announces Filmmakers Fund Grant Winners

    Swedish documentary filmmaker Anastasia Kirillova and “Negative Space” co-directors Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter are among the filmmakers who will receive grants from Rooftop Films to help complete their upcoming projects. Kirilova will be awarded $20,000 to finish her film, “In the Shadows of Love,” while collaborators Kuwahata and Porter will receive $10,000 for “Dandelion [...]

  • Jim Gianopulos

    Paramount Chief Jim Gianopulos Unveils Diversity Initiative

    Paramount Pictures chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos has announced that all studio productions will be required to complete a plan to enhance diversity. Wednesday’s reveal follows Paramount’s commitment to participating in Time’s Up and Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s 4% Challenge. The name is derived from women having directed only 4% of the country’s top grossing movies [...]

  • Leave No Trace

    Oscar Analysts Are Sincere -- but Often Totally Wrong

    With Oscars arriving Feb. 24, we can expect multiple “who will win/who should win” columns. There will also be a flurry of post-show analyses about the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and why members voted the way they did. Since AMPAS never releases polls or voting tallies, these pundits will never be contradicted [...]

  • Green Book spiderman into the spider

    On Eve of Oscars, Variety’s Film Experts Answer Three Pressing Questions

    We continue to live in a divided world, with the current political landscape in the United States a seemingly endless hotbed of tumult and acrimony. Issues of racism, bigotry, diversity and gender equality drive the creative players as well, with Oscar-nominated films parlaying said themes into compelling, thought-provoking cinema. To analyze 2018 in big-screen entertainment, [...]

  • Karl Lagerfeld'Lagerfeld Confidential' Photocall at the

    Karl Lagerfeld Remembered at Costume Designers Guild Awards

    The death of fashion and costume designer Karl Lagerfeld cast somewhat of a shadow over the usually jubilant Costume Designers Guild Awards — the only award show where clothes literally steal the spotlight away from actors — which was held at the Beverly Hilton on Tuesday night. Here it was obvious that Lagerfeld’s impact on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content