“Inside Job” screens at Capawock Theatre, Vineyard Haven

“Inside Job” screens at Capawock Theatre, Vineyard Haven

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The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival (MVFF) and Benjamin Hall of the Capawock Theatre are collaborating to bring the Oscar-nominated documentary “Inside Job” to the Capawock on Saturday, Feb. 26. It’s a don’t-miss opportunity to see a riveting exposé of perpetrators of the nation’s economic crisis just a day before the Academy Awards.

“Inside Job” never made it to the Vineyard movie theaters last year. Managing Director Brian Ditchfield says MVFF wanted to give Islanders a chance to see it and to offer MVFF members a free screening before its annual festival, scheduled March 18-20.

This amazing movie about America’s economic meltdown starts with the bank crisis in Iceland, which foreshadowed what would happen in the U.S. a few years later. Iceland’s banks started out small and local. Then they went global, eventually lending more money than the gross national product of Iceland.

Iceland’s banking house of cards came tumbling down through privatization and deregulation, bringing with it the entire Icelandic economy. From that grim prelude, “Inside Job” segues into the U.S. economic crisis. Director Charles Ferguson, who also directed “No End in Sight,” interviews as many of the principals as would speak to him. What they have to say is remarkable.

Many of the nation’s top economic experts and government officials were aware of how risky it was to package mortgages owned by smaller banks and offer them as securities, much as you would stocks, to investors. Not only did they realize how risky it was to create this kind of financial package, but they bet against the customers they sold the bundled securities to.

What makes “Inside Job” such an intriguing film is listening to the commentary of the bankers and financial experts who perpetrated the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression of 1929 and still feel no scruples about what they did. Were they too arrogant to realize that it wasn’t in their own best interests to talk about what they really thought on camera? Or was it a matter of being clueless about the extent of their moral turpitude?

What becomes dishearteningly clear is that the financial structure currently operating in the U.S. has been corrupted by the deregulation instigated through thoughtless anti-government sentiment, which gave free rein to human greed. It is a mystery why President Obama, who promised to bring change, put in place the same culprits: Larry Summers, Timothy Geithner, Ben Bernanke, and others who brought misery to so many Americans.

Can Obama think nobody else had enough expertise to fix the system? And why did bankers reward themselves with huge bonuses after the federal government bailed them out?

The truth is that America is rapidly becoming an oligarchy of the very rich. The movie lays equal blame on Democrats and Republicans, so it isn’t a matter of partisanship so much as understanding the scale of the fraud.

Director Ferguson demonstrates with horrifying clarity how bogus the academic discipline of economics has become. Economists at the nation’s top universities have no qualms about serving on boards of the same corporations whose actions they claim to be analyzing objectively — even though those corporations are paying them hefty fees.

After praising “Inside Job,” film critic A.O. Scott of The New York Times predicted that nobody would ultimately pay much attention to “Inside Job” and nothing would change. Let’s hope he’s wrong and “Inside Job” wins an Oscar.

“Inside Job,” Saturday, Feb. 26, 7 pm, Capawock Theatre, Vineyard Haven. $7; free for MVFF members. For more information, visit tmvff.org.

Brooks Robards, a frequent contributor to The Times, divides her time between Oak Bluffs and Northampton.

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