Thursday, September 3, 2009

American Casino

Film Review by Kam Williams


Headline: Documentary Exposes Pattern of Predatory Lending in Minority Communities     


                How exactly did the current economic crisis come to pass? Why have minority communities been hit so hard by the tidal wave of mortgage foreclosures? Why are another million people likely to lose their homes in 2009? Was this a coincidence or did the banking community specifically target blacks and the poor for financial products they couldn’t afford such as subprime loans? And why is the government far more concerned with bailing out Wall Street than Main Street?

                These are the pressing questions addressed by American Casino, a splendid piece of journalism directed by Leslie Cockburn, a veteran investigative reporter for PBS and for CBS’ 60 Minutes. In this eye-opening expose’ she interviews an array of middle-class African-Americans left on the brink of bankruptcy by lenders who duped them into agreeing to repayment terms they’d never be able to meet.

For instance, we meet Emily Wade, a minister in Baltimore who lost the house she grew up in that her parents had bought back in 1961, when she took out a loan for $28,000 which ballooned exponentially because of legalese hidden in the fine print. Now a regretful Reverend Wade is homeless and living in her car.

Then there’s Patricia McNair and Rodney Carter, a gainfully-employed couple with kids facing eviction even though she’s a shrink and he’s a social; worker. They purchased a home whose monthly mortgage payments have skyrocketed to the point where they have are also perilously close to losing it.

Director Cockburn cleverly contrasts these unfortunate folks dire predicament against former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s intervening on behalf of his former company, Goldman Sachs, and other Fortune 500 firms that gambled on mortgage backed securities and should have lost. But no, he succeeded in saddling future generations of Americans with mammoth debt in order to save companies supposedly “to big to fail.”

A damning documentary which makes a convincing case that neither the federal government nor the corporate elite could care less about the plight of the working class.   


Excellent (4 stars)


Running time: 89 minutes

Studio: Table Rock Films

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