DOASKDOTELL MOVIE REVIEW of Life and Debt, Maxed Out


Title:  Life and Debt

Release Date:  2001

Nationality and Language: USA, English

Running time: about 80 Minutes

MPAA Rating: not given, but probably PG-13

Distributor and Production Company:  New Yorker Films

Director; Writer: Stephanie Black



Technical: Wide Screen 2:1 , Digital

Relevance to doaskdotell site: globalization

Review: Movie Review:

   Itís good to see films that address serious policy issues with a direct documentary style, and here Stephanie Black has provided a study of globalization and NAFTA and GATT with a history of how these have affected Jamaica as a nation, beyond the obvious role of Jamaica as a Caribbean tourist destination (and frequent destination for James Bond).  As indicated in interviews with previous prime minister Michael Manley, Jamaica had its hands tied when it borrowed money  (back during the stagflation of the 1970s) from the International Monetary Fund, restricting how it bought and sold, so that its agricultural industries were much less competitive. Sweatshop conditions, as in chicken processing factories, are shown, a long with accounts by workers of the regimentation required by their jobs. Apparently a semi-sovereign trade zone was set up around Kingston to get around the rules for the benefit of the bankers.

   So at least one can understand where some of the protesters at trade conferences come from. At it seems like Congressional policy makers some times have not.

   This film played for almost a full house at the Minneapolis Oak Street Cinema when I saw it on a Saturday night in January 2002.  There were books for sale in the lobby afterward, including one by Fidel Castro.


Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lenders (2007, Truly Indie/Red Envelope/Netflix, dir. James Scurlock, 90 min, NR but would be PG). There are perhaps three basic components to the way the banks and big lenders have made easy credit a predatory machine. One is by arranging things so that you don't have a good credit score unless you at least use some credit. The second is tacking on enormous interest, penalties and fees for the slightest mistake on the part of the consumer, who often enough is a low wage worker (Barbara Ehrenreich style) who lives paycheck to paycheck on credit.  That is, the lending institutions have essentially turned low wage workers into "sharecroppers" when 200 years ago they were slaves. The third component is that most people just don't understand the mathematics well enough to recognize the danger. Yup, it's easy to take advantage of people who didn't take or pass Algebra I.  The movie covers some horror stories, especially college students lured into easy debt, two of whom would commit suicide. One of the suicide sites is on the Mississippi River, near a bridge, where the cops are looking for a sunken car and body. The movie (all digital video), for the grim outcome of this problem, manages to make fun of things with snazzy music score. Elizabeth Warren ("The Two Income Trap"_ does a lot of the commentary.


Related reviews: Bowling for Columbine and other Michael Moore films, & SuperSize Me; Book Warren: The Two Income Trap


Return to doaskdotell movies

Return to doaskdotell movies, books, plays

Return to doaskdotell home page


Email me at