[Note: This review of "What's the Economy For, Anyway?" initially appeared with reviews of "Split Estate" and "Tapped" -- the fourth of four sets of reviews for The Union newspaper.]
Whether we realize it or not, we signed on long ago to an almighty economic driver called gross domestic product (GDP). Basically, if we spend money on it, it adds to the GDP. Houses, cars, toys, food, entertainment. Spend more on such things; it improves our GDP. Treating illness, increasing the jail population, cleaning up toxic spills. Spend more on such things; the GDP soars.
The film “What's the Economy for, Anyway?” entertains as it instructs about topics that can be dull or depressing.Dave Bakter, the teacher, effectively overplays his role as he walks us through how our quality of life fits in the working dynamics of this thing called the economy.
What’s clearly going on in the 13 clever segments of this feature length documentary is how our quality of life does NOT fit in the working dynamics of the economy.
People who have jobs work too many hours, thinking “at least I have a job.”Corporations increase their productivity while we work for them for free.We pump our own gas.We wade through voice automated systems and long holding times, sorting out problems we never had before.
Do you want more time for family, friends, community, healthful activity, plain ol’ free time?Where does all the time go?
John De Graaf, director of“Affluenza” and other biting documentaries, is a long time favorite of the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival.He probably would not mind if anyone gives away the conclusion to his latest film.“What's the Economy for, Anyway?”If we want to produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people for the longest time we would scrap GDP for an economy measured in a gross sustainable product.
= = = Q and A with "What's the Economy..." director John de Graaf = = =
Chuck Jaffee: You put a lot of fun into tough topics.
John de Graaf: I consider this film to be something like Al Gore meets Stephen Colbert. You have to try to reach as broad an audience as you can, but humor doesn’t work for everybody. The test audiences who responded best was the opposite to what I thought. It was the senior citizens who have more memories to attach to the references.
CJ: What can be done to get individuals and governments and corporations to fundamentally to redefine what the economy is for?
JdG: Part of it is just people seeing that economy isn’t working. We’re at a crossroads; it’s not necessarily change or die, but it is change or suffer miserable impacts. Maybe we’re having a wake up call that the economy can’t be sustained with deregulation and cutting taxes and letting Wall Street reign.
CJ: I’m sure one good thing you could say about the festival is that they’ve named an award after you, the “John de Graaf Environmental Filmmaking Award.” Tell me why you like this festival.
JdG: I’m honored that they named an award after me, and I’m not even dead yet. The Wild & Scenic is the best film festival of it’s kind, and I’ve been to quite a few. The way the community gets behind and sustains and grows it, it’s wonderful. Wonderful films and venues. I’d come to this festival even if I didn’t have a film it.