Friday, December 16, 2011

Top 10 Financial Crisis Documentaries

The global financial crisis of 2008/9 has left a significant economic dent, with the global economy slow to rebound, and with a banking crisis transitioning to a sovereign debt crisis in some countries. Indeed many people have felt the impact on their own balance sheets; with house prices and stock prices well off their highs, and in some cases with fixed income assets wiped out. The crisis is sure to leave a lasting psychological impact on all who were touched by it. But of course, with great challenge comes great opportunity, and one of the opportunities is for learning. So after watching a series of crisis related documentaries, I present here what I think are among the top 10 financial crisis documentaries.

  1. The Fall of Lehman Brothers
    To me the very title of this documentary was one of the defining moments of the financial crisis. What was previously unthinkable became reality, and at this moment I believe the greatest shock-wave was sent out across the global financial markets. So if there's any documentary on the financial crisis to watch, I think this one tops the list.
  2. America's Bankrupt Banks (Inside the Meltdown)
    And of course, before there was Lehman's there was Bear Stearns. Bear Stearns was much closer to the sub-prime crisis and played the game in such a way that it was first to bear the full brunt of the collapse in the housing market. This documentary focuses on the collapse of Bear Stearns.
  3. Meltdown
    The 4-part documentary from Al Jazeera released this year is one of the most talked about documentaries on the financial crisis. Meltdown takes you through all of the facets of the crisis, but places a particular emphasis on the human impact, and reviews some of the civil unrest that grew out of the discontent that the crisis left behind.
  4. How the Banks Never Lose
    This one takes you over the other side of the ocean to get a glimpse at the conditions that led up to the banking crisis in the UK, where a similar story was unfolding alongside the US banking crisis.
  5. The Boom & Bust Years (The Age of Risk)
    This BBC documentary provides more background on the activity and conditions that lead to the crisis. Of course we are blessed with hindsight, but looking back it is at once appalling, mystifying, and embarrassing what was going on, and it seems to leave little wonder that a crisis was the logical conclusion.
  6. Breaking the Bank
    We've got Lehman's and Bear Stearns on the list here, but another key bank (which actually survived)  that played a pivotal role through the crisis was Bank of America. This documentary follows the actions of Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis, and the events that went on at the Treasury that prevented the collapse of the entire banking system.
  7. Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lenders
    The list would be incomplete without a close look at consumer credit. The core cause of the crisis was really an unsustainable explosion in the growth of debt and credit. For a time debt was super cheap and super easy to get, so of course asset prices were sent to unsustainable levels, unsustainable industries were propped up, and people borrowed well beyond their means. Of course, because of this the recovery from this crisis has and will continue to be hard because people (and governments) still need to get back to more sustainable levels of borrowing.
  8. Debtocracy
    The last 3 documentaries on this list are not about the 2008 crisis, but are well worth a look for additional context. This one in particular talks about the Greek debt crisis that has precipitated in the wake of the financial crisis, and which has caused considerable contagion and escalation of economic distress in Europe, and much more water has yet to pass under the bridge.
  9. Prisoners of Debt: Inside the Global Banking Crisis
    This is not about the banking crisis of 2008, no this is about the 1980's third world debt crisis. It bears stark resemblance to today's banking, and of course Sovereign debt crises. I'm sure most people who watch this documentary will think "why didn't we learn?" 
  10. The Crash of 1929
    Like number 9, this is not about the 2008/9 crash, but many people have drawn parallels to the great depression and the crash of 1929 with today's crisis. So to be able to participate in the debate it is well worth taking a look into what went on all the way back then. But also, in terms of the scale of the crisis and the impact, the 1929 crash is the closest comparison to the 2008 crash.
Thanks to for finding all these documentaries (and others!)

1 comment:

  1. Good article - also worthy of note for financial crisis documentaries is: Inside Job


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