Markets, Money, Mortgages and the Great American Meltdown
Tells the story of the credit bubble that caused the financial crash of 2008, and clearly explains how excessive income inequality leads to economic instability.
Directed by David Sington
Produced by Stephen Lambert and Christopher Hird
Executive Producers: Stephen Lambert, Christopher Hird, and Luke Johnson
Associate Producers: Sarah Kinsella, Heather Walsh, Celine Fitzmaurice
Cinematography: Clive North
Film Editor: David Fairhead
Archive Producer: Jacqui Edwards
Consultant: Alex Crossman
Graphic Design: Peter J Richardson
Original Music: Philip Sheppard
A Studio Lambert Production In Association With Dartmouth Films
[Note: Community screenings of THE FLAW can be booked at Bullfrog Communities.]
"This is the best film ever on the flaws in America's post-industrial capitalism." Dr. Joseph A. Soares, Professor of Sociology, Wake Forest University
In October 2008, a humbled Alan Greenspan admitted to the US Congress that he had been mistaken to put so much faith in the self-correcting power of free markets and that he had failed to anticipate the self-destructive nature of wanton mortgage lending and the housing and credit bubble it generated.
Taking for its title Greenspan's admission that he'd found a flaw in his model of how the world worked, THE FLAW attempts to explain the underlying causes of the crisis in more depth than any documentary to date.
Made by international award-winning documentary maker David Sington (IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON), THE FLAW tells the story of the credit bubble that caused the financial crash. Through interviews with some of the world's leading economists, including housing expert Robert Shiller, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, and economic historian Louis Hyman, as well as Wall Street insiders and victims of the crash including Ed Andrews - a former economics correspondent for The New York Times who found himself facing foreclosure - and Andrew Luan, once a bond trader at Deutsche Bank now running his own Wall Street tour guide business, the film presents an original and compelling account of the toxic combination of forces that nearly destroyed the world economy.
The film shows how excessive income inequality in society leads to economic instability. At a time when economic theory and public policy is being re-examined this film reminds us that without addressing the root causes of the crisis the system may collapse again and next time it may not be possible for governments to rescue it.
Grade Level: 10-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2011
Copyright Date: 2010
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-870-8
"An eye-opening look at the mischief of greed and its global repercussions. A wake-up call for those policy makers that put their heads in the sand and could not detect the rise of systemic risk and the roaring fire that ensued."
Dan Braha, Professor of Complex Systems, New England Complex Systems Institute and Professor of Decision and Information Sciences, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth
"This timely documentary skillfully shows the links between the predatory lending practices of the mortgage industry, the easy credit policies of the government, the securitization of mortgages by the banks, and the increasing inequality between the very wealthy and everyone else. But it also shows the impact of the bubble on ordinary Americans who lost their homes, their life savings, and in some cases, their dignity. While accepting American capitalism with its essential profit motive, still contends, in one commentator's words, that 'capitalism should work for us, not work us over.'"
John R. Boatright, Professor of Business Ethics, Loyola University Chicago, Author, Ethics and the Conduct of Business and Ethics in Finance
"This is a masterpiece with brilliant cinematography, intellectual mega-stars, and ordinary families, suffering the ordeal of mortgage foreclosure, on the terrible housing-banking crisis of our time...The film convincingly makes the case that our current crisis is rooted in a shift of American capitalism after the 1950s from manufacturing to finance, that produced extreme income inequality, sand-castle-home assets, and very real debts that were ruthlessly exposed by the banking tsunami of 2008. This is the best film ever on the flaws in America's post-industrial capitalism and our inadequate understanding of economic behavior."
Dr. Joseph A. Soares, Professor of Sociology, Wake Forest University, Author, Power of Privilege: Yale and America's Elite Colleges
"The Flaw masterfully explains the warped economic thinking and practices that fueled the 2008 financial meltdown. Until we understand the lessons of The Flaw, we're doomed to continue the extreme inequalities and the boom-bust cycles of casino capitalism."
Chuck Collins, Senior Scholar, Institute for Policy Studies, Director, Program on Inequality and the Common Good, Co-editor, inequality.org
"The Flaw is a hard-hitting and astonishing account of how growing income inequality in rich, developed countries caused the global economic crisis. Mixing animation, interviews, and archive footage, The Flaw tells a compelling but accessible story. If you ever thought that greed was good, or that the free market underpinned a fair and flourishing economy, this film exposes the flaw at the heart of that thinking and reveals the damage caused to the vast majority of us by excessive income inequality."
Kate Pickett, Professor of Epidemiology, University of York, Co-founder, The Equality Trust, Co-author, The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better
"Like a jigsaw puzzle, The Flaw comprises a collection of expert comments and statements, which, when assembled, provides a picture of what caused the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression. Anyone teaching about the root causes of the global economic and financial crisis will find The Flaw to be one of a number of useful resources to help students piece together the picture for themselves. A most useful exercise is to contrast the views of those who warned that a crisis was in the offing with those who not only ignored the warnings, but took actions that contributed to its occurrence. There is no substitute for both listening and watching experts, from multiple positions, opining about issues of critical importance."
Hersh Shefrin, Professor of Finance, Santa Clara University, Author, Beyond Greed and Fear: Understanding Behavioral Finance and the Psychology of Investing and Ending the Management
"The Flaw serves up a damning indictment that meshes with the 'Occupy' anti-Wall Street outlook...Highly recommended."
"Explores aspects of the crisis too often ignored...Packed with information and it does something other videos on the crisis do not do. This video connects the 'dots,' the precursor factors leading to the housing boom and why the crash was so devastating...An excellent video. It covers the real causes of the economic crisis of 2008 and foreshadows the economic crisis of 2???."
Vance Geiger, University of Central Florida, Anthropology Review Database
"Exceptionally well-made...The story begins with decades of success by the 1% and corporate CEOs in driving down incomes for everyone else. How could the majority of Americans maintain their standard of living despite stagnating wages and income? By borrowing. How could the 1% and Wall Street make the most return on the wealth they were accumulating as they paid working people less? By lending it to those same working people."
World Wide Work
"Recommended...The topic is carefully researched and presented, and will provide interesting information for students, investors, and the general public. This DVD is suitable for high school and college students as well as adults, and public and academic libraries will want to purchase."
Susan Awe, University of New Mexico, Educational Media Reviews Online
"Sobering...A thoughtful and absolutely invaluable documentary worthy of the highest recommendation that deserves to be on the DVD shelves of every public and college library in the nation."
The Midwest Book Review
"Particularly insightful are the explanations by economists Robert Shiller and Joseph Stiglitz...Strikes a nice balance between being entertaining and informative...Highly recommended for all viewers."
"The Flaw is the best film we know for explaining the financial meltdown, the crisis of capitalism, and growing inequality. It provides a deeply critical and comprehensive explanation...Engaging."
"The film's conclusion is perhaps not the one that might be expected....The Flaw displays a high level of sophistication in explaining why the markets collapsed as they did, unlike, for instance, Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story."
James Elwes, Prospect
"A lively, iconoclastic look at the current crisis in capitalism"
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
"What makes this film stand out is its impassioned, at times enraged, exposé of the way our economic system has become weighted in favour of the super-rich...a furious rallying cry for change which still hasn't come, this is forceful, eye-opening viewing."
Tom Huddleston, Time Out London
"Lively documentary on the 2008 financial crisis...Unchecked capitalism, the growing inequality of incomes, the gap between the super-rich and the rest of us, simple greed and sheer stupidity are identified and explained as major factors."
Philip French, The Observer
"This sobering, informative film will enrage many in the audience. Those smiling on the way to the bank will probably wait for the DVD and watch it with some relief from 50 inch plasma TVs in their basement screening rooms."
Joyce Glasser, Mature Times
includes chapters and SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
Host a community screening
The Flaw web site
The film's trailer
Awards and Festivals
Sundance Film Festival
ALA-VRT Notable Videos 2012
Sheffield Documentary Film Festival
Gold Coast International Film Festival
Boulder Film Festival
Open City London Documentary Film Festival
RiverRun International Film Festival
Milwaukee Film Festival
Oneonta Film Festival
Labor and Work Issues
Let's Make Money
Erwin Wagenhofer's incredible odyssey tracking our money through the worldwide finance system.
What's the Economy for, Anyway?
Ecological economist Dave Batker questions whether GDP is an adequate measure of society's well-being and suggests workable alternatives.
Marilyn Waring demystifies global economics from a feminist perspective.
The New Rulers of the World
Award-winning journalist, John Pilger, investigates the realities of globalization by taking a close look at Indonesia.
Multinational companies seldom take the needs of people or the environment into account.
... more Reviews
"Smart and entertaining documentary...By establishing the intellectual framework of what took place and then demonstrating the effects in the real world, Sington has cleverly taken complex, often abstract concepts and made them accessible for a lay audience. Outstanding archival work by Jacqui Edwards in collecting amusing images over which Sington and his editor David Fairhead could place the cold, hard facts, helps make the message understandable."
James Greenberg, Hollywood Reporter
"The way that stagnation of real incomes for most in the US provoked a sensational rise in personal debt is superbly portrayed in David Sington's new film The Flaw...as economists have pointed out and The Flaw illustrates vividly, the principal beneficiaries of the long period of growth were those at the top of what economists call 'the income distribution'."
William Keegan, The Observer
"Rather than beginning with the housing bubble's immediate causes, David Sington's film goes further back in time to take a general look at why so many Americans chose risky mortgages. In a brisk account, featuring pithy talking heads, it highlights the vast wealth of the country's super-rich: so much of this elite's money has been spent on pointlessly big houses that the entire market has been distorted."
Edward Porter, Sunday Times
"Wonks meet everyday Joes to explain the 2008 global economic crisis in writer-director David Sington's intelligent THE FLAW. Going out of its way to make economic theory and practice digestible (and viewable) to lay audiences..."
Robert Koehler, Variety
"Bolstered by graphics and animation (ironically plucked from postwar cartoons extolling free markets) the film renders complex ideas digestible and argues that capitalism has changed in the last 30 year--and not for the better. Once sold on consumer power through borrowing and a higher standard of living, we realize we bought into a lie. The Flaw has burst the bubble."
Sundance Film Festival Program
"David Sington's damning documentary makes it easier to understand but not to condone."
Allan Hunter, Daily Express
"A welcome companion to Inside Job, explaining the 2008 financial meltdown -- and the unscathed power structures behind it -- with analysis, informed experts and vintage cartoons."
Steve Rose, The Guardian
"A terrific film, intelligent and persuasive, but also entertaining, witty and at times moving."
MatthewTaylor, Royal Society of the Arts, former head of strategy for Tony Blair
"The Flaw is a film which squares up to the issue with confidence, verve and righteous anger...what makes The Flaw an outstanding documentary is its firm stance. The film is bold for how it draws a firm distinction between good capitalism and bad capitalism...The Flaw is to be applauded for attempting to redeem the capitalist system itself, rather than the people who ruined it. Sington's film deserves to be seen by every mortgage lender and Dow Jones shareholder in the West."
Ben Taylor, Electric Theatre
"When the greed of bankers sent the world economy into a tailspin, US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan had to stand in front of Congress and eat some serious wedges of humble pie, and award-winning director David Sington's film takes Greenspan and his financial whizzkids to task in this seriously enlightening documentary."
Dan Carrier, West End Extra
"A film that informs and outrages in equal measure. Prompted by the 2009 financial crash and looking at how capitalism is heading for crisis, we learn how, in 2007, the top 0.1 per cent of Americans made 40 per cent of the country's money. That's 15,000 people 'earning' $700 billion while everyone else got poorer. Bring on the revolution!"
David Edwards, Daily Mirror
"This is one of the best films I've seen in a long time. David Sington has made a film which is hugely entertaining and hugely insightful. This is a film without commentary, and there are no Michael Moore-type stunts. Instead Sington has found a range of economists and experts who explain in clear language the roots of the crisis."
Val Kermode, Eye For Film
"The Flaw moves at a nicely snappy pace, with Sington shrewdly blending thoughtful interviews with bankers, brokers, borrowers and economists with graphics and animation drawn from post-war cartoons, which -- with a certain irony -- are busy extolling the pleasures of benefits of a free market."
Mark Adams, Screen Daily
"With its judicious mix of talking heads and poignant case studies, this is a fascinating insight into why so few academics and financiers failed to notice the imminence of meltdown until it was too late...(David Sington's) arguments are cogent and compelling, but it remains to be seen how many of his lessons about excessive income inequality leading to economic instability will be taken onboard."
Parky at the Pictures, Oxford Times