SHOCK DOCTRINE - On Demand Direct from the Sundance Film FestivalFebruary 04, 2010

SHOCK DOCTRINE - On Demand Direct from the Sundance Film Festival

Sundance Selects

The Sundance Selects film label as part of the Direct from the Sundance Film Festival initiative chose three films being screened at the festival that simultaneously became available nationwide On Demand. "The Shock Doctrine" was one of them and made its North American premiere at Sundance and simultaneously On Demand January 28, 2010.
Directed by Mat Whitecross and Michael Winterbottom, based on the best-selling book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein, this documentary seeks to illustrate the central thesis of the book: that the embrace of Milton Friedman's free market economic theories, mainly by the right has led to increasing exploitation of crises for profit by big business and governments in a manner analogous to insidious "shock therapy treatment."
The filmmakers put forth that followers of Friedman's ideas are very aware of the "utility of crisis." That is, shocks (war, natural disasters, etc.) make for a perfect environment to install free market policies where they were having trouble before.
More specifically, chaos and emergency destabilize not only economies but people and only during such times can those in power push through radical economic policies because the consequences of those changes would never be accepted if people were thinking clearly and had a voice. Thus, the proponents of free trade who like to invoke the "spread of democracy" in countries or areas without sufficiently "free" markets are actually fomenting the opposite (with some implication that crises can and have been man-made to serve greedy ends.)
SHOCK DOCTRINE - On Demand Direct from the Sundance Film Festival
Similarities between economic shock doctrine and shock therapy are explored partially through metaphor: shocking an ill patient's brain was an attempt to "erase" the bad bits and replace them with new thoughts that would be more socially acceptable, despite the awful side effects/human rights violations. But another more physical link is discussed: Torture is an effective tool for authorities to suppress opposition as they implement these reforms, again eschewing real democracy.
Still with me? It really is interesting...
The film intercuts Naomi Klein seminars with all manner of historical footage - 50's shock treatment; Military coups in South America; the fall of the USSR; Iraq and Afghanistan; and even New Orleans after Katrina. Friedman's quote at that time in his last op-ed: "...this is a tragedy. It is also an opportunity to radically transform the education system." -advocating privatization of the school system before they rebuild.
Ultimately, the reason to be for this film and the main flaw is one in the same - Naomi Klein's theories. Not to say they shouldn't be considered, but the film is strictly from the perspective that right wing economic theories need human misery to work and that the right know this and lie and deceive to accomplish it because they believe that ultimately, no matter how horrible, upheaval of this sort and the socioeconomic landscape that results (few rich, lots poor) is the best of all possible worlds. The film is polarizing (though some might merely deem it "challenging"). So what distinguishes this from a Robert Greenwald (Outfoxed, Iraq For Sale) film you ask? Answer: Bigger budget, bigger names, more research and popular source material.
However, REGARDLESS of your economic point of view, surely everyone can agree that it is fascinating to analyze (in the words of the Washington Post reviewing Klein's book) "...the all-too-human pattern of chaos and confusion, good intentions and greed."
Among the reason-to-watch details:
• In the 70's the only countries newly installing free trade reforms with the help of the USA were military dictatorships.
• Homeland security is now a bigger industry than Hollywood and the music industry combined.
• Before the Iraq War, 89% of Iraqis were literate (New Mexico was 47% functionally illiterate at the same time).
• In 2003, for every 100 soldiers in Iraq, there were 10 contractors (as opposed to 100-1 in 1991). In 2007 there were more contractors in Iraq than soldiers. (Even Friedman was against privatization of the military.)
The film ends as the book does, attempting to shed a positive light by perceiving a backlash against economic institutions that propagate economic shock doctrine but warning that we need to be hypervigilant and mindful of history. At the very least, it starts a conversation. Will Klein's predictions repeat in Haiti? How will Supreme Court-decided corporate first amendment rights during elections pan out for free market proponents? Watch on demand along with the Sundance crowds and join the discussion!
Sean McPhillips is a new contributing writer to On Demand Weekly. He is a former vice president of acquisitions for Miramax Films (During Harvey's reign). He is a current writer/director for NY-based Secret Hideout Films
SHOCK DOCTRINE (78 min) Not rated
Begins: 1/28/10
Ends:     2/26/10
The films featured through the Sundance Institute and Sundance Selects partnership will be available on video-on-demand the same day each premieres at the Sundance Film Festival, and will be available in approximately 40 million homes on most major cable systems including Comcast, Cablevision, Cox, Time Warner, plus the satellite provider Direct TV. The “Direct From the Sundance Film Festival” films will be found on the main movies-on-demand platforms of each cable and satellite provider.
« Previous
Next »