Making money work for everyone

    DEBT: A brilliant, but serious, comic caper with all the style and panache of The Italian Job – and the heart and soul of the best in British social activism.

    It is a rare documentary film that has this critic laughing one moment and in tears the next. Dan Edelstyn and Hilary Powell’s superbly entertaining and seriously educational Bank Job is one of the few.

    Bank Job is both a powerful social and economic analysis and a rousing – at times hilarious – call to arms for action to tackle Britain’s monstrous levels of personal debt.

    In the great tradition of the Chartists, The Levellers, The Tolpuddle Martys – even at a stretch the ordinary men and women of England’s Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 – Dan and Hilary, a married couple with a couple of kids at primary school living in a rather down-at-heel eastern fringe suburb of London – set out to set up a project to write off millions of pounds worth of household debt in their borough.

    Five years in the making, Bank Job is the story of an ordinary family with «no experience whatsoever in activism».

    Bank Job, a film by Dan Edelstyn, Hilary Powell
    Bank Job, a film by Dan Edelstyn, Hilary Powell

    3 Acts

    A feature-length documentary made in the style of a host of fabulous bank heist movies – with a scattering of tongue-in-cheek references to such entertaining movies as Peter Collinson’s famous The Italian Job and character actor Jason Statham and various Guy Ritchie movies – this is a documentary told in three clear acts, complete with slo-mo sequences giving it all the thrills of a feature film.

    Act 1 is the set-up, where Dan – a sympathetic tousled character with something of the court jester about him, dressed in comfortably scruffy jackets, plaid shirts and braces and a head of unruly unbrushed brown hair – jets off to New York to learn more about what debt actually is, how it is created and how a spin-off from the social activism movement Occupy Wall Street has set about buying up medical and university student debt at a discount in order to write it off entirely for thousands of indebted graduates.

    It is a crash lesson in the economics of Neo-Liberalism.

    Experts including Andrew Ross, author of Creditocracy – and the case for debt refusal ­– a New York University professor and founder member of the Strike Debt movement, explain how since the «Big Bang» of the 1980s when financial markets in the US and UK under Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were deregulated, there has been an explosion of easy credit.

    That has translated to massive profits for the few (bankers, investors, and fund managers) and crippling debt for many (you, me, and your neighbours).

    That has translated to massive profits for the few (bankers, investors, and fund managers) and crippling debt for many (you, me, and your neighbours).

    Few people know that debt is packaged up and traded – sold on at a discount by financial institutions keen to monetise their «debt ledger» immediately rather than wait years for borrowers to pay off their loans – or not at all in the case of bad debts. That is notwithstanding the drive by the global financial industry to keep people in debt—credit card companies refer customers that pay off their bill in full each month as «deadbeats». These are people that make no money (or very little) . . .

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    Nick Holdsworth
    Our regular critic. Journalist, writer, author. Works mostly from Central and Eastern Europe and Russia.
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