(World Premiere – Discovery Section)
Politicians and the media like to talk
about the relationship between Wall
Street and Main St reet, but
investigative journal ist Lesl ie
Cockburn’s debut feature gets to the
guts of the matter, visiting defectors
from Bear Stearns and Standard &
Poor’s and other high-level players in
the great mortgage gamble and, on the
flipside, visiting the working class
Americans who were the unwitting
chips on the table.
Director/Writer/Producer Leslie Cockburn
Writer/Producer Andrew Cockburn
Sunday, April 26 @ 7:45 pm at AMC Village VII, Theater 1
Monday, April 27 @ 11:00 am at AMC Village VII, Theater 7, Press and Industry
Wednesday, April 29 @ 1:00 pm at AMC Village VII, Theater 2
Saturday, May 2 @ 2:00 pm at DGA Theater
FAT DOT, 212.691.4224
Jennifer Holiner (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Charlene Caronan (email@example.com)
TABLE ROCK FILMS
(USA, 2009, 89 minutes)
Politicians and the media like to talk about the relationship between Wall Street and Main Street, but investigative journalist Leslie Cockburn’s debut feature gets to the guts of the matter, visiting defectors from Bear Stearns and Standard & Poor’s and other high-level players in the great mortgage gamble and, on the flipside, visiting the working class Americans who were the unwitting chips on the table.
Washington has so far committed eight trillion dollars of taxpayer money to bail out Wall Street. What led to this disaster? AMERICAN CASINO answers that question. The film exposes the deceit that caused Wall Street's financial meltdown and shows how these lies ruined the lives of millions of Americans. The gamblers were on Wall Street, the casino was a housing market buoyed by lax regulation and super-low interest rates, and the chips were ordinary people.
Moving from New York and Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, Maryland, and Riverside County, California, filmmaker Leslie Cockburn has brought her experience covering war zones to the task of uncovering the roots of this disaster.
“I don’t think most people really understood that they were in a casino,” says award-winning financial reporter Mark Pittman. “When you’re in the Street’s casino, you’ve got to play by their rules.”
The “chips” that the film follows in Baltimore 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 home ownership as a safe investment. Too late, they discovered the truth. Cruelly, as African Americans, they and other minorities were 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.
We 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, we see the casino's endgame in Riverside, California—a foreclosure wasteland given over to methamphetamine labs and colonies of rats, where disease-bearing mosquitoes swarm in millions from abandoned, stagnant swimming pools.
Filmed throughout 2008, American Casino takes you inside a game that our grandchildren will regret we played.
It is rare that a documentary director has the privilege to shoot a film that, while in production, becomes the greatest story of our time. The worst-case scenario of January 2008, when we began work on American Casino, was what actually unfolded in the year that followed. We were able to follow our characters through Wall Street’s collapse, foreclosure, bankruptcy, homelessness. We watched whole neighborhoods ravaged by the subprime meltdown. I have spent much of my career filming in war zones and post-apocalyptic societies—Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan. But I never expected such a disaster at home. To be there with a camera, while it was happening, telling the story, was certainly the highlight of my career.
Leslie 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 duPont-Columbia Award, the Overseas Press Club Award and the Emmy.
In 1997, Ms. Cockburn co-produced The Peacemaker starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman. She was a Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton and has produced dozens of segments for 60 Minutes from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Colombia, Zimbabwe, and Russia.
She began work on American Casino in January 2008, when she and her husband Andrew, who co-produced the film, recognized the signs of a potentially devasting financial collapse from the subprime meltdown.
She lives in Washington, D.C.
Andrew Cockburn grew up in Ireland and London before moving to the U.S. in 1979. He has written many books and articles and produced numerous documentaries on subjects ranging from the myth of Soviet military power (an entirely accurate prediction) to Saddam Hussein, nuclear terrorism, the bloodstained diamond trade and modern slavery. He has been married to Leslie for 32 years and lives in Washington, D.C.
DIRECTED BY LESLIE COCKBURN
PRODUCED BY LESLIE AND ANDREW COCKBURN
EDITOR PETER ELISCU
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY PHIL GEYELIN
WRITTEN BY ANDREW AND LESLIE COCKBURN
SOUND DANIEL BROOKS
ASSOCIATE PRODUCER TAO RUSPOLI
MUSIC SUPERVISOR SUSAN JACOBS
MUSIC BY MOBY
ROQ OFF CREW
ASSISTANT EDITOR JENNIFER HOBDY
TRAILER EDITOR PAUL FORTE
KEY ART DESIGN JORDAN DUVALL
WEBSITE DESIGN MARC SCHEFF
POST PRODUCTION DUART, NEW YORK