Econo-Docs: A Primer

From Alex Gibney's <em>ENRON: The Smartest Guys in the Room</em>

Has the phrase "worst financial crisis since the Depression" got you down?  Feeling overwhelmed and under-informed? Sadly, we here at Documentary can't do anything about the stock market, mortgage crisis or credit situation, but we can at least provide you with a sampling of films that may shed some insight on the systems that affect our economy and our nation's varying attitudes about money.

Title: FRONTLINE: Breaking the Bank
Year: 1985
Filmmakers: Dirs.: Brent E. Huffman, Katerina Monemvassitis
Description: In 1984, there were more bank failures in the US than at any time since the Great Depression. FRONTLINE investigates one of the largest banks that failed, and another that nearly failed to examine the implications on the nation's banking system.

Title: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: The Crash of '29
Year: 1990
Filmmakers: Prods.: Muffie Meyer, Ellen Hovde
Description: The Crash of 1929 captures the unbounded optimism of the Roaring Twenties and the shocking consequences when reality finally hit, exploring a fateful year through the words and experiences of the descendants of several titans of finance.

Title: FRONTLINE: Great American Bailout
Year: 1991
Filmmaker: Prod.: Glen Silber
Description: By the time it was over, the savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s had sunk over 700 banks and cost American taxpayers an estimated $125 billion.

Title: The Great Depression
Year: 1993
Filmmakers: Dirs./Prods.: Jon Else, Lyn Goldfarb, Stephen Stept; Dante James, Terry Kay Rockefeller, Susan Bellows; Prod.: Orlando Bagwell; Exec. Prod.: Henry Hampton
Description: This seven-part PBS series from Blackside Inc. takes an omnibus approach in mining the story and stories of The Great Depression.

Title: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Gold Fever
Year: 1997
Filmmaker: Prod. Susan Steinberg
Description: The 1890s in America were desperate times. A depression brought bank and business failures and millions of lost jobs. When gold was discovered between Canada and Alaska, 100,000 people made the treacherous journey in search of riches.

Title: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: The Richest Man in the World: Andrew Carnegie
Year: 1997
Filmmaker: Dir. :Austin Hoyt
Description: Andrew Carnegie amassed a fortune, then gave it away. This program follows Carnegie's life: his impoverished origins in Scotland; his business career, where he was on the cutting edge of the industrial revolution; his conflicts with labor; and his philanthropic endeavors.

Title: Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern
Year: 1997
Filmmakers: Dirs.: Steve Ascher, Jeanne Jordan
Description: A personal story of one family's dramatic effort to hold onto their family farm as massive foreclosures sweep the nation.

Title: Affluenza
Year: 1997
Filmmakers: Prods.: John de Graaf, Vivia Boe
Description:. A one-hour PBS special that explores the high social and environmental costs of materialism and over-consumption.

Title: FRONTLINE: The Crash
Year: 1998
Filmmakers: Prods.: Sam Bailey, Sherry Jones
Description:.. Unraveling what caused the financial panic of 1998, The Crash examines the underlying dynamics of a global economy that has created this new era of risk and instability.

Title: Escape from Affluenza: Living Better on Less
Year: 1998
Filmmakers: Prods.: John de Graaf, Vivia Boe
Description:.. This PBS special provides practical solutions to the problem of "affluenza."

Title: Life and Debt
Year: 2001
Filmmaker: Dir.: Stephanie Black
Description:..An examination of the global economy through the complex relationships between "developed" and "developing" nations.

Title: Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town
Year: 2001
Filmmaker: Dir.:  Micha X. Peled
Description:.. Tracking the controversy in a Virginia town divided over whether to permit the construction of a discount mega-store, Store Wars uncovers how discount retail chains are changing not only the way Americans shop, but the way they work and live.

Title: Born Rich
Year: 2003
Filmmaker: Dir.: Jamie Johnson
Description:. Born Rich, a film about children of the insanely rich, is directed by one of their own: Johnson & Johnson heir Jamie Johnson.

Title: Talking to the Wall: The Story of an American Bargain
Year: 2004
Filmmaker: Dir.: Steve Alves
Description:. Despite the arrival of retail sprawl, three New England towns struggle to revive Main Street as the traditional village center and symbol of cohesive community life.

Title: The Corporation
Year: 2004
Filmmakers: Dirs.: Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbot
Description:. The Corporation explores the nature and spectacular rise of the dominant institution of our time.

Title: ENRON: The Smartest Guys in the Room
Year: 2005
Filmmaker: Dir.: Alex Gibney
Description:. The inside story of one of history's greatest business scandals, in which top executives of America's seventh largest company walked away with over $1 billion while investors and employees lost everything.

Title: The American Ruling Class
Year: 2005
Filmmaker: Dir.: John Kirby
Description:. Lewis Lapham, long-time editor of Harper's magazine, presents a provocative examination of power and class in America's presumed classless society.

Title: Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lenders
Year: 2006
Filmmaker: Dir.: James D. Scurlock
Description:. Maxed Out takes us on a journey deep inside the American debt-style, where everything seems okay as long as the minimum monthly payment arrives on time.

Title: I.O.U.S.A.
Year: 2008
Filmmaker: Dir.: Patrick Creadon
Description:  I.O.U.S.A. boldly examines the rapidly growing national debt and its consequences for the United States and its citizens. Wielding candid interviews with both average American taxpayers and government officials, the film helps demystify the nation's financial practices and policies.

Title: The One Percent
Year: 2008
Filmmaker: Dir.: Jamie Johnson
Description: Johnson's follow-up to Born Rich focuses on the growing "wealth gap" in America, exploring the political, moral and emotional rationale that enables a tiny percentage of Americans-the one percent-to control nearly half the wealth of the entire United States.

Title: Wall Street Warriors
Year: 2008
Filmmakers: Prods. : Sean Skelton, Scott Gill
Description: Witness the extreme power and intense competition that defines Wall Street through the eyes of those who thrive there, including seasoned veterans, established traders and ambitious newbies fresh out of school.

Tamara Krinsky is associate editor of Documentary magazine.