For the next few days, I am inviting you to a movie exploration. The kind of exploration that you probably have not heard about anywhere else.
The five movies I am about to elaborate around have made a major impact on my understanding of the world that we live in. Of course, there are many more movies that impacted my life, but I am focusing on these five especially because of the specific realizations they triggered inside my mind through the lens of economics and history. In hindsight, I am now realizing how they provided a bedrock for the worldview that shaped my perception of the world around us.
At the beginning of the eighties, I was walking down the streets of Paris, on my way back home, after a well deserved day during my internship as a student in business and economics. And then I saw a giant poster with a title on it; KOYAANISKATSI (1981). The movie was showing at a very special movie theater then, called the KINO PANORAMA of Paris, a special place in the history of cinema, but that will be a later topic of discussion. The cinematic experience I then felt watching KOYAANISKATSI that day comes very close to what the President of the Jury at the Cannes Festival described during his opening speech this year, few days ago. Vincent Lindon, in the current context of war, wanted to remind us about the special role of movies, and he declared that “cinema, is a weapon of massive emotions to awaken our consciousness.”
That’s exactly what KOYAANISKATSI did to my mind. And I have to admit that to this day, there is a lot about the world and the economy that I would not have understood if I had not watched that very special movie. The ideas and emotions that I felt that year were reverberated by BARAKA, a little more than 10 years later, that I watched in New York City. Both movies are non narrative and shown as documentaries. Thanks to a mesmerizing soundtrack, every single image in both of them pulls you into a multidimensional universe made of speed, acceleration, disjunction, dysfunctionality and disconnection. The emotional whirlwind of emotions created a permanent state of disruption, the very disruption that I was precisely bathed into during those formative years where I was starting my career as a financial analyst in the Middle East, Paris, Frankfurt and New York for leading financial institutions. It just so happened that the very state of overwhelming confusion stood right at the heart of what a famous economist, called “creative destruction.” Every single text of economic theory at that time was hailing it as a mantra of righteousness. Every single politician and policy maker had to make a lateral reference to that creative destruction, because it was a promise for the future that justified the very sacrifice that nature and societies had to endure in the present moment. Saying otherwise was absolutely tabou. No government, institution, project initiative, could get financing if it didn’t bear that implicit seal of rightful thinking.
Right at the time KOYAANISKATSI was released, another important movie came up, ROLLOVER (1981). I did not get to see it until later in the early 2010’s, as if it was meant to act as a book end to a transition that would lead us to where we are now in the world. From ROLLOVER, I learned about how nature’s gifts and resources get to be transformed into a simple piece of paper that represents money. We can now say that the transformation into paper money is now represented by digital bits, electronic blips that only exist in cyberspace. Nature, our natural world, ends up into digital bits. It is vaporized through the power of powerful computational machines, transforming the present into promises made of electronic blips, all stored into silicon chips extracted from Mother Earth.
The transformation of nature into money, Chief Seattle already had a vision of it, more than a century ago; “Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can not eat money.”
Indeed, are these electronic blips going to feed us when everything disappears?
In the documentary HOME (2012), that’s exactly was we are witnessing; water transformed into $’s, air transformed into $’s, trees transformed into $, mountains transformed into $. The whole documentary shows us right in our face how we are converting nature into money. You know how sometimes, when we are training our puppies to not pee and poop all over the house. Sometimes, the most efficient way to train them is to grab them nicely by the collar and put their face right in front of their misdeed. That’s what Yann Arthus-Bertrand did in that movie. The scenarist of that movie ended up writing a book all about “symbiotic economics” (“Symbiotic Economics” by Isabelle DELANNOY).
And finally, my list also includes ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1971). That movie revealed its essence only after several viewings over several years. I then could see through a fictional story inspired by reality, how money can spread from one area to another. As the saying goes, “If you want to be rich , build a road”, and I can see how this movie, over the years, can help get a lot better perspective of what is happening in the world nowadays…
So as you can see, there was a kind of premonition in these five movies. A premonition that goes far beyond the kind of control or manipulative hidden hands that would be too easy to fall into.
That’s what I wanted to share with you.
Let me know if you have questions and I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Feel free to comment.