Let’s Make Money exposes the economic exploitation of developing countries by wealthy western investors, and delves into the intricate inner workings of a corrupt, unbalanced, constantly evolving and ever more confusing worldwide financial market.
In an interview on the film’s website, Erwin Wagenhofer claims that even though most of the film doesn’t affect viewers in the West personally, everyone in the world still has a stake in the world economy and should therefore be concerned about it.
The film explores many questions: How does your pension fund directly affect investments in Singapore? How much of the money you donate to Africa even gets to Africa, and how much of it stays there? How did the World Bank help bring about the war in Iraq?
The documentary opens with the observation that “most of us do not know where our money is, [however] this does not even interest us because we trustingly follow the siren call of the banks: Let your money work!” It is this concept that Wagenhofer sets out to rectify. According to the interview on Let’s Make Money‘s website, Wagenhofer wanted to explore simple questions; there has never been as much money circulating through the world as there is now, but where is it, and where is it going?
Wagenhofer’s film begins in the mines of Ghana, in West Africa, where cheap labour and powerful explosives are used to extract gold, which is then smelted and sent to Switzerland. The earnings are then divided, with only three per cent going back to Africa.
“It is estimated that for every dollar of aid that goes into Africa, at least 10 go out under the table,” explains John Christensen in the film, a developmental economist and economic advisor to the government of Jersey, a British Crown Dependency off the shores of Normandy, France. The documentary claims that Jersey is one of many infamous offshore tax havens.
Wagenhofer travels through the streets of Chennai, India, where the economy has been hijacked and corrupted by foreign investors, plunging the citizenry into a vicious cycle of debt and poverty.
“I don’t think investors should be responsible for the ethics, or pollution, or whatever, of the company in which he is investing. That is not his job,” explains Mark Mobius in the film. Mobius is the president of Templeton Emerging Markets, one of the largest global emerging markets investment trusts. “Growth is what we are all about,” says Mobius.
We are taken to the Sahel in Burkina Faso, where vast plots of land have been destroyed, totally eroded and dried out due to the cotton monoculture. Where there is work left, women and children work long hours picking cotton for less than 50 euros a year.
“There is a famous saying,” explains Mobius in the film while driving through Singapore. “The best time to buy is when there is blood in the streets.”
The documentary uses strong cinematic imagery of harsh industrial landscapes and long silent shots of workers’ hands performing repetitive and menial tasks in tucked-away factories. It contrasts the beaches of Singapore, dotted with the homeless asleep under sheets in the sand, and the slums of India against the regal infrastructure and luxurious untouched golf courses in the deserts of Spain.
Let’s Make Money is shocking, at times confusing, but an ever-insightful look into the way our money runs through the veins of a strange global financial market that involves many, but benefits a very few.
Let’s Make Money plays at Cinema Politica on Feb. 8. For more information, check out cinemapolitica.org