Three years after winning the Silver Bear for directing “The Road to Guantanamo,” Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross are back at the Berlinale with another provocative documentary, “The Shock Doctrine.” Based on the Naomi Klein book of the same name, the unfinished film looks at the current global economic critis and a pattern of strategies — dubbed “disaster capitalism” — employed throughout the world to destabilize institutions and exploit their economies.
Timely and at times harrowing, Winterbottom and Whitecross’ latest lays the blame for the current economic situation at the feet of infamous economist Milton Friedman. The film describes a “disaster capitalism complex” that took hold in Chile under Pinochet, Russia with its rising Oligarchs, Britain in the era of Margaret Thatcher and the U.S. during Reaganomics, as well as looking at Iraq, Guantanamo and more, leading up to the present day.
“When you see bankers being given hundreds of billions of dollars (in bailouts) who have been taking billions of dollars themselves for all these years it makes people very angry,” Winterbottom said this afternoon in Berlin. His topical new doc, which screened without end credits and should be finished in time for a UK screening next month.
Aligning themselves with Kleins’ view, Winterbottom and Whitecross have crafted a pointed essay that they hope will resonate with audiences. But, today they rejected the idea that films can necessarily inspire change.
“It’s a mistake to ascribe too much importance to non-fiction films,” Whitecross noted this afternoon. “I would like to think they have impact or influence,” he added, “[But] the reason you make a film is to try to tell a story.”
Whitecross added that the recent inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States — included in the film — is an opportunity, but he added that people will need to keep pressure on him for reforms.
“I think that is the only positive thing, that people around the world are so angry about what’s been going on,” noted Michael Winterbottom, “Perhaps that will change what happens in the future.”