Last October, I railed about how there was a dearth of doc filmmakers tackling the current economic meltdown, pointing out that the usually on-the-ball PBS Frontline series wasn’t stepping into the void. Well, they finally answered the call a couple of weeks ago. And boy, did they present a grim picture.
I found Frontline’s “Inside the Meltdown” to be some compelling viewing. Some might say that it is just a rehash of events, but it’s well told, and it goes so far as to suggest that some of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s actions were personally motivated. I really appreciated their strategies of compensating for a lack of visuals with shots of menacing-looking town cars slinking around Manhattan, and black & white pictures of Paulson looking suitably grim and culpable. You can watch the film online here.
When I told my friends at POV that I was planning to write about the Frontline episode, they suggested I also take a look at a little viral video called “The Crisis of Credit Visualized” that also tackles the subject:
And I have to say, it sort of puts the Frontline episode to shame. This little 11-minute animated film was made by Jonathan Jarvis, who completed it as part of his thesis work in the Media Design Program, a graduate studio at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. This writer/director/animator/sound editor/jack-of-all-trades has done more with his 11 minutes, and what I can only imagine was a fairly small budget to create something truly memorable. And judging by the number of views and comments on YouTube (more than 300,000) and on Jarvis’ site (another 300,000-plus), it’s making a significant impact.
I know comparing these two forms of filmmaking/documenting is a little unfair; in fact it might be best to see them as the best of their kind, complementing each other. And I might as well add the radio episodes on This American Life: “The Giant Pool of Money” and
“Another Frightening Show About the Economy.” So it looks like there isn’t such a void after all.
One point of mystery I should add, however, is that it appears that the Frontline episode and Jarvis’ film both debuted on the exact same day: February 17. Was that just a coincidence? Some smart guerilla deployment by Jarvis? Mr. Jarvis, care to explain?