Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director: Ilan Ziv
Scipt by: Ilan Ziv and Bruno Hahon
Cast: Dr. Robert Boyer, Dr. H-Joon Chang, Prof. Noam Chomsky, Dr. Alan Ebenstein, Prof. Stuart Ewen, Mary Gabriel, Prof. James Kenneth Galbraith, Dr. Lewis Gordon, Dr. David Graeber, Dr. Yuval Noah Harari, Dr. Michael Hudson, Ho Fung Hung, Kari Polanyi Levett, Dr. Philippe Norel, Prof. Nicholas Philipson, Prof. Thomas Piketty, Prof. Abraham Rotstein, Lord Robert Skidelsky, Prof. Yanis Varouyfakis,
Screened at: Critics’ DVD, NYC, 5/7/18
Opens: May 1, 2018 on DVD from Icarus Films
From the vast library of Icarus Films, a major distributor of DVD’s, comes “Capitalism.” The commentators are talking heads mostly in the field of Economics with some on related subjects like Anthropology. One thing must be made clear: This is not a Michael Moore treatment from the person I consider the foremost documentarian of satirical left-biased treatment in the entertaining “Capitalism: A Love Story” (an ironic title, of course, considering the filmmaker’s ideology). By contrast the episodes in Ilan Ziv’s film, which total 320 minutes, are more like the fare you expect in a college classroom, each unit’s becoming the subject of from a variety of academics in several languages according to each person’s home idiom.
It may be true that you will learn more from this series than from any course you might take at the university level, as then again, each unit is handled by experts—who may be more knowledgeable and even have a greater gift for language than your own professors.
If Economics is a popular major in college, it may be not so much that our young people are fascinated by the subject but rather that they perceive the study will enhance their lifetime earnings. This may or may not be true, but you will probably earn more than if you studied anthropology or theater.
For non-Economics people such as I, the episodes are on the whole as informative as they are dry (where is Michael Moore when we need him?) The DVD comes with a glossy booklet giving full descriptions of the storytellers, writers and director if you want to check that these are authentic and reliable voices. Ilan Ziv, who sits in the director’s chair, is Israeli-born, fought in the October 1973 war in his home country, and founded Icarus Films. After he left that auspicious company, he made oodles of documentary films mostly on human rights, such as “An Eye for an Eye,” which deals with crime in Texas.
“Capitalism” was broadcast on ARTE in October 2014, made up of six episodes, available on three separate DVDs. They are: Capitalism, Adam Smith, another on Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, Karl Marx, Keynes vs. Hayek and The Human Factor. Each episode delves deeply into the subject. For example, the initial one broadly entitled “Capitalism,” takes us before Adam Smith’s famous book “The Wealth of Nations,” indicating that during the Age of Exploration, slaves were treated as capital goods, bought and sold. The essay on Karl Marx takes us to the mid-19th Century, indicating that Marx published The Communist Manifesto too late. The revolutions in Europe were already going strong, meaning that his printed materials did not inspire the violence in the way that Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was a forerunning of the U.S. War Between the States.
At least one pundit notes that 1991 marks the date that Communism ended in most of the world, but in 2008, Capitalism met its potential death throes. The series would be of great interest to Economics majors but is unlikely to find a happy home with folks who look for more entertainment with their scholarly leanings.
320 minutes. © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – B