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And They Say Occupy Wall Street Has No Message: 10 Docs That Spell It Out

And They Say Occupy Wall Street Has No Message: 10 Docs That Spell It Out

When the occupation of Wall Street began a few weeks ago, any acknowledgment in the mainstream media was plagued with refrains designed to suggest that they were a motley crew of 21st-century hippies: What’s the message? What are they fighting for? Do they not know that the computers and mobile phones they’re using spreading their message are owned by corporations?

True, the message is diffuse, but the effects of globalized capitalism are vast and the intricacies of capitalism are too intricate for all of the protesters’ sentiments to be encapsulated on the blank side of a pizza box. However, the documentary world has had its finger on the pulse for years.

Here’s indieWIRE’s list of 10 documentaries that provide a primer on what Occupy Wall Street is about.

“The Corporation,” Mark Achbar & Jennifer Abbott (How to Find))

Even before the Citizens United Supreme Court case solidified the legal recognition of the corporation as person when it comes to campaign contributions, Canadian filmmakers Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott created “The Corporation” to bring attention to the ways that corporations, with the help of the legal system are able to exploit, with little restraint, people and land in the name of profits. The film also recognizes the corporation as a person — attempting to diagnose the corporation using the DSM-IV as if the corporation showed up to a psychologist to cure its ills.

“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” Alex Gibney (How to Find)

Alex Gibney rose to fame as a documentary master with this documentary about the practices of Enron Corp. Formerly one of the world’s largest energy companies, Enron fell when its top executives were prosecuted for their corrupt accounting.

“Food, Inc.,” Robert Kenner (How to Find)

Building off of two popular examinations of the food industry — Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and Eric Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation” — Kenner’s doc examines the effect of a corporate food culture from various aspects of the food chain. The doc takes a look at the effects of the Monsanto corporation’s ownership of patents on soybean strains on local farmers, the effects of shifting food prices on low-income families and elicits hope from the local and organic food movement.

“Inside Job,” Charles Ferguson (How to Find)

Last year’s Best Documentary Oscar winner, “Inside Job” is like a college lecture — a really entertaining, illuminating, shocking college lecture. Ferguson, director of the Oscar-nominated “No End in Sight,” was able to get incredible interviews with members of the financial elite — especially top professors in the nation’s top business schools, who don’t end up looking so reputable. Provides an invaluable look at the political conspiracy that allowed the financial crisis — especially through an easy-to-understand explanation of the subprime mortgage crisis — to occur unpunished.

“Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers,” Robert Greenwald (How to Find)

In his farewell address to the nation, President Dwight D. Eisenhower coined the term “military-industrial complex” to describe the dangerous collusion between corporate institutions and the military. His concerns have been compounded by the expansion of corporations’ role in the execution of war. The contemporary state of the military-industrial complex in the early years of the Iraq War is the heart of Greenwald’s doc.

“Roger & Me,” Michael Moore (How to Find)

Though he is a polarizing figure even in progressive circles, Michael Moore’s 1989 love letter to populism in his hometown of Flint, Michigan, “Roger & Me” remains a striking indictment of US corporate culture and the potential vibrancy of a powerful workers’ movement.

“The Shock Doctrine,” Mat Whitecross & Michael Winterbottom (How to Find)

Naomi Klein has already taken a strong stance on the Occupy Wall Street mission, calling it “the most important thing in the world now” at The Nation. The sentiments of her words about the mechanisms with which corporations are able to garner the policies that most benefit them — which made up her bestseller “The Shock Doctrine” — are available to view in this doc co-directed by Michael Winterbottom.

“Sicko,” Michael Moore (How to Find)

One of Moore’s most measured documentaries (though it does include a stunt where 9/11 workers who cannot afford care in the US are taken to Cuba to receive free care), “Sicko” uses examples of universal health care success across the world to make the case that it’s not the scary prospect as the insurance industry — and the politicians that receive campaign contributions from them — want you to believe.

“Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price,” Robert Greenwald (How to Find)

Robert Greenwald’s documentary profiles the most direct example of the self-perpetuating system of capitalism — where cheap prices justify sub-par working conditions, benefits and pay for many.

“The Yes Men Fix the World,” Andy Bichlbaum & Mike Bonanno (How to Find)

The Yes Men, the anti-globalization performance duo behind the “good news” New York Times, which announced the end of the Iraq War, have documented their hijinks in two films, and in this 2009 documentary, they show what happens when they apologize for the Bhopal disaster on behalf of Dow Chemical and garner applause at corporate events with their outlandish presentations that make explicit corporate greed and indifference to certain human lives.

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You’re kidding me! Very lame!!!!

Fah Fah Fah

David Sington’s THE FLAW is a BIG one. Everyone should check it out.

3 more:

• Erwin Wagenhofer’s LET’S MAKE MONEY

• The BBC’s 3-part series THE LOVE OF MONEY

• Habitat Media’s PRICELESS, a great doc on campiagn finance reform.

Jeremy Walker

I return to add that of all the great suggestions here (and indeed WHY WE FIGHT is absolutely germane to the discussion), there is a particular doc out there whose title is actually seen on many of the Wall Street Occupiers hand-drawn placards: THE ONE PERCENT is Jamie Johnson’s blistering expose of those very few who control the lions share of this country’s wealth. Presumably heir to a great fortune himself, Jamie is also a straight-faced provocateur. Indeed, Warren Buffett cut his granddaughter Nicole off from the family wealth after she participated in Jamie’s film; but the best part of THE ONE PERCENT is when Milton Friedman kicks Jamie out of his office once the questions get too…socialist? You can totally stream it on Netflix unless you canceled your subscription out of…protest


Thanks, Stolaroff, for mentioning THE FLAW. David Sington’s documentary account of the toxic combination of forces that nearly destroyed our world economy is quite relevant to the current Wall Street protests.

The Ghost

How about adding “I Want Your Money” for satirical Purposes.

The Ghost
The Comic Book Shop of DOOM

Crisis Call 211

“Crisis Call 211” is going to shine a light on the current economic downturn by following families calling for help at a Portland 211 center. It is the project of the day today on Indiewire, and you can help it get made by visiting our kickstarter campaign. It takes a village to make a social action documentary!


Great list. Also wanted to add “Why We Fight” alongside “Iraq For Sale” and “The Flaw” alongside “Inside Job.”


PLEASE add to your list:

“In Debt We Trust” Danny Schecter, 2006 –

and “Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lenders (2006) ” James Scurlock

Anyone who hasn’t seen these, should and then visit

What has been allowed to happen, and is continuing to happen, is criminal

Marc Weiss

Great list! A correction and an addition:

correction: “The High Price of Low Cost”

addition: Alex Gibney’s excellent dissection of money and politics: “Casino Jack and the United States of Money”


A short doc on occupy


Brand new documentary named UNRAVELED from Marc H. Simon just came out about white collar criminal Marc Dreier. Amazing portrait reveals the psychology of those whose insatiable greed lead them into these crimes: Facebook: Website:

Jeremy Walker

Leave it to IndieWIRE to articulate how the doc explosion of the last decade may have fomented a movement.

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