Class Action screening of “Capitalism: a Love Story” leaves audiences with bitter hearts

By Steven Baum

Last Wednesday, Class Action, an organization that strives to raise awareness of social inequality and rid the world of classism, screened Michael Moore’s latest film, “Capitalism: A Love Story.” The event consisted of a brief introduction to the movie by Kristen Golden, the executive director of Class Action. She spoke briefly about the organization’s history and goals, as well as how the film’s focus on capitalism relates to the creation of a society with roots in classism. The event also involved a discussion session following the film screening about issues raised in Moore’s film.

“Capitalism: A Love Story” is Moore’s most shocking and, in some ways, scary film to date. The production profiles the wealthiest top one-percent of Americans and their plans to shape America into a plutocracy essentially run by the wealthy. It narrates the troubles of those Americans who have been beaten into submission by the financial crisis. Through interviews chronicling the hardships of a few families who were devastated by foreclosures, evictions and factory closings, the film suggests that their suffering is part of deliberate actions to allow the already wealthy to hoard more money.

Twenty years after his first documentary, “Roger & Me”, Moore’s usage of archival footage and personal testimonies of average Americans continues to effectively paint pictures of parts of America that are not seen every day by many Americans. In this film, Moore uses these devices to show the hardships of just a few of the people hit hard by the current financial crisis. His criticism of the United States and those (supposedly) in charge are backed by leaked official documents and salary figures of obscene proportions.

The film will leave viewers with the sense that the American Dream has gone awry, starting with the financial system and government policy. Moore makes his case very convincingly, provoking viewers’ curiosity about the details surrounding those responsible for the financial crisis.

Following the screening of Moore’s film, Rachel Rybaczuk, the program coordinator for Class Action opened the discussion. She prefaced the talk by briefly recounting her own experiences growing up in a racially diverse and economically underserved neighborhood in Miami, Fla. The audience conversation following the movie consisted mostly of shock at the depiction of the financial crisis, as well as criticism of the way the film was made and how it sometimes one-sidedly presented facts.

Some people made comments about how the film left them speechless at points and that some of the images and figures served as wake-up calls and inspired them to take action. One audience member rhetorically asked the rest of the crowd if accepting the economic issues shown in the film as the “norm” is the way to live, stating rather defiantly that not only should people act for change, but people must act for change. Others hoped that this film would establish conversations across America regarding capitalism and the financial crisis, hopefully resulting in swift steps to fix the problems.

In terms of evaluating the actual film and Moore’s methods, one woman faulted the film for not going deeper into race and gender issues that have come about as a result of the financial crisis, saying that she felt as if it was a “film for white people.” But the highlight of the discussion was when one man told two particularly long-winded tales. The first involved a correspondence that apparently took place between Mahatma Gandhi and Mao Zedong, in which Gandhi told Zedong that his government wouldn’t last. In the second story he reflected on his time spent as a board member for Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, the punch-line of which was unclear as he got cut off abruptly due to time constraints.  His overall point though was that he disliked the way the film, “polarized the poor against the rich,” as opposed to covering the issue from a more neutral position.

On the whole, the event’s screening and discussion provided much material for debate and food for thought. “Capitalism: A Love Story” is a provocative film that will leave viewers questioning whether or not the financial crisis could have been avoided if not for the greed of others. It is sure to spark many debates regarding the issues discussed in the movie. The film offers insights into a world known only to the wealthy and powerful, and brings to light realities of hardships that the unfortunate minority must endure. Whether the film serves as a call to action or just another criticism of America, viewers will leave the theater more informed on, and perhaps disenchanted by the supposed “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Steven Baum can be reached at [email protected]