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Monthly Film Series presents 'American Casino'

By Christopher Renner
Announcement | February 1, 2010

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Monthly Film Series sponsored by the Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice, the Manhattan/Riley County League of Women Voters and private donors, brings a powerful documentary, American Casino, to the community this month that looks into the causes of the 2008 economic crisis.

The viewing will take place at 6:30 pm on Tuesday 9 February at the Manhattan Public Library Auditorium. The public is invited to attend.

"American Casino is a powerful and shocking look at the subprime lending scandal. If you want to understand how the US financial system failed and how mortgage companies ripped off the poor, see this film," commented Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel prize-winning economist.

Synopsis:

American Casino finally explains how and why over $12 trillion of our money vanished into the casino that had been created by unregulated banking.

For chips, the casino used real people, like the ones viewers will meet in Baltimore, where the film is based. These are not the heedless spendthrifts of Wall Street legend, but a high school teacher, a therapist, a minister of the church. They were sold on the American Dream as a safe investment. Too late, they discovered the truth. Cruelly, as African - Americans, they and other minorities were the prime targets for the subprime loans that powered the casino. According to the Federal Reserve, African-Americans were four times more likely than whites to be sold subprime loans.

Viewers will also meet the players. A banker explains that the complex securities he designed were "fourth dimensional" and sold to "idiots." A senior Wall Street ratings agency executive describes being ordered to "guess" the worth of billion dollar securities. A mortgage loan salesman explains how borrowers' incomes were inflated to justify a loan. A billionaire describes how he made a massive bet that people would lose their homes and has won $500 million, so far.

Finally, as the global financial system crumbles and outraged but impotent lawmakers fume at Wall Street titans, the viewers get to see the casino's endgame: Riverside, California, a foreclosure wasteland given over to colonies of rats and methamphetamine labs, where disease-bearing mosquitoes breed in their millions in the stagnant swimming pools of yesterday's dreams.

Filmed over twelve months in 2008, American Casino takes you inside a game that our grandchildren never wanted to play.

Leslie Cockburn directed American Casino and with he husband, the liberal journalist Andrew Cockburn, wrote and produced the documentary. It dates the origins of the crisis to the insertion of a provision in the 2000 Commodity Futures Modernization Act, introduced by Phil Gramm, the Texas Republican and former senator who was then chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, exempting credit-default swaps from government regulation.

Cockburn was born in San Francisco and is a graduate of Yale University. She began her documentary film career in 1980 at CBS Reports. She directed and produced several films for PBS Frontline, including Inside the Cartels and The War We Left Behind. She directed and produced Peter Jennings Reporting From the Killing Fields. Her awards include the Robert F. Kennedy Award, the George Polk Award, the Columbia Dupont Award, the Overseas Press Club Award and the Emmy.

Directors of photography include: Phil Geyelin, Gregory Andracke, Bill Cassara, Bob Goldsborough and Sam Painter; the film was edited by Peter Eliscu; music by Moby, Bruce Springsteen, Herbie Hancock, Blossom Dearie, Ronnie Earl, B. Dazzle, Roq Off Crew and Kojo Hotflow. It was released by Argot Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 29 minutes.

The Women Film Critics Circle awarded American Casino as Best Documentary 2009. The Women Film Critics Circle is an association of 47 women film critics from around the country and internationally, who are involved in print, radio, online and television media.

American Casino was an official section for the Tribeca Film Festival.

The Baltimore Sun's film critic, Michael Sragow, has produced a excellent review of the film what he delivers over streaming video at:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/videobeta/watch/?watch=bb338e80-d3a6-41d2-8ca8-2a8a65ded741&cat=c9e9bd82-d6e0-4717-b121-53f051f9914f&src=front

The Daily Beast's Lloyd Grove writes:

When it comes to documentaries about the Wall Street meltdown, don't let all the hype for Michael Moore's 'Capitalism, A Love Story' deter you from seeing a real gem of a movie, Leslie and Andrew Cockburn's American Casino. The wife-and-husband team avoid vaudeville shtick in order to offer a fascinating, and occasionally heartrending, morality play of predatory greed in the crazy world of derivatives and collateralized debt obligations and its brutal impact on hardworking African-American home owners in Baltimore. Watching American Casino, it's hard to believe that the pinstriped gamblers have reverted to their reckless ways.


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