Mid-last decade, An Inconvenient Truth brought a surprising amount of mainstream attention to global warming. Even Al Gore has expressed shock that millions of people would tune into what is essentially a power point presentation about a scientific phenomena.
But what is additional groundbreaking about An Inconvenient Truth—the 2006 Oscar winner for Best Documentary—is that it also started a groundswell for documentaries about social issues normally reserved for the somber pages of The Nation and Mother Jones. Increasingly, these films have become the favored vehicle for investigative and explanatory news topics. What's more, this subgenre of contemporary filmmaking is producing stories about heady and potential dry topics in ways that are engaging, funny and even sexy topics like subprime mortgages in the sleek 2010 Oscar winner, Inside Job.
Into this mix arrives the well-made and engaging documentary, We're Not Broke, a montage of interviews and snippets about corporate taxations—or, more precisely, the lack of taxation of big corporations. Responding to the all-too-familiar riff from federal and state governments that they lack money for schools, roads and, well, just about everything, filmmakers Victoria Bruce and Karin Hayes set about curating interviews and profiles about corporate taxation. The topic is massive and potentially overwhelming (not to mention dull), but the resulting documentary—an accepted submission to 2012 Sundance Film Festival—is a surprisingly frank and easy-to-follow essay about the interlocked woes of federal military spending and excused corporate taxes.
Although the film occasionally wanders into the gotcha tone of "60 Minutes" or even an occasional Michael Moore pitch shrill, more often than not We're Not Broke stays levelheaded and simply offers a montage of talking heads, news footage of congressional hearing and loosely threaded stories about activists.
The freshness of the film is underscored by its timing; the filmmakers started documenting activists in early 2011, months before Occupy Wall Street triggered attention to the nation's lopsided economy. In hindsight, it is fascinating to watch as a few far-flung activists, flustered about taxes, begin to pull together what becomes a nationwide movement (not to mention an ironic one, as the activists organize on Facebook, one of the corporations the film specifically points out, along with Bank of America and Exxon, as taxdodgers).
As the documentary unfolds, there is clear momentum as the story bounces between historical context about taxation and contemporary, real-time political battles, both on the campaign trail and in the streets. Raw in its subject matter and polished in its production, We're Not Broke is a one-two combination that does what social documentaries do best, educate and inspire.
5/2 East Bend Public Library 6:30 pm
5/4 Brooks Research Room, Downtown Library, 3:30 pm
5/12 Sisters Public Library, TBD