As film reviewers have noted, making a dark, gripping and bleakly funny romp out of the Global Financial Crisis of 2007/8 is no easy task, but one of the best films out this summer, The Big Short, certainly manages it.
It's already widely known that the GFC was caused by an explosion of sub-prime, or bad mortgages and other products, often bundled together, given phony AA ('very safe') ratings, and on-sold to unsuspecting investors.
The housing market became propped up on these illusory financial products until the bubble burst, causing the whole market to collapse and almost tanking the US economy.
It was foreseen by so few people – and those that could see it were derided as bananas- Dita DeBoni
Most of the world continues to grapple with the fallout from the GFC today.
The Big Short tells this sometimes complex story from the point of view of a few oddball outsiders – including one called Michael Burry.
Burry – a real-life person – was one of the few to take a proper look at the loans that had been bundled together and realise they would never be paid back.
He visits all the top investment banks in New York, negotiating with them to pay him out if the housing market collapses.
In the middle of high times, and convinced housing is a safe bet, they accept his seemingly bizarre wager while laughing him out of the room.
His idea is picked up by a handful of other mavericks, some of whom set out to investigate the supposedly booming housing market and find loan sharks, families on the brink of disaster and strippers owning multiple properties, geared up to the hilt.
The ending is as tragic as it is inevitable (although lucrative for the few who had seen it coming).
The interesting thing to me about this movie – and about the whole debacle that underpins the GFC – is that it was foreseen by so few people – and those that could see it were derided as bananas.
The nay-sayers weren't trusted because up against them was an entire industry of supposedly financially astute men in suits, working for the biggest companies in the world, far from stupid and far too significant to be corrupt on such a major scale.
But they were capable of perpetrating an enormous con, as events proved.
Just because we are told that everything's cool by men in suits, it doesn't mean they are always right- Dita DeBoni
It's not just America where financially sober men in suits seem to be able to convince the population that black is white.
There are shades of this scenario playing out in New Zealand right now, as those who fancy themselves superior in the area of economics and business scoff at suggestions the TPP agreement will be anything less than absolutely marvellous for New Zealand.
The smear campaign against people who oppose the TPPA – or see much to question in it – has almost completely stifled proper debate about this game-changing deal.
Doubters have been called 'children', hippies, dirty lefties, communists, 'anti-trade', and much worse.
Even if they are respected economists, doctors, business leaders or even revered rugby players, they are in for a drubbing for questioning the TPPA.
The latest attack lines suggest that because the sky hasn't immediately fallen in, the TPPA must be A OK.
This, despite well-founded fears of future unintended consequences.
We're also told we've been talking about it for ages, despite little proper analysis in the mainstream media.
Now we're told Maori will benefit from the TPPA. In fact, Maori appear to have the most to lose.
All the while, our police force is co-opted by the Government to stamp out democratic, non-violent protest. And we laugh at North Korea!
It is true that the TPPA may not inflict immediate harm on New Zealand, unlike the collapse of the US housing bubble did during the GFC.
But there is every reason to be concerned, and to want to be listened to, and heard by our own Government concerning an agreement that has potentially enormous negative ramifications for our people and our environment.
Just because we are told that everything's cool by men in suits, it doesn't mean they are always right.