Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lending (Full Version)

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Written and directed by James Scurlock, the film and book use interviews with creditors, debtors, academics, and others to illustrate its story. The film premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, USA, in 2006 where it claimed the Special Jury Prize. It went on to several film fests including Seattle, Full Frame Documentary, Maui, New Zealand, Milwaukee International, Woodstock, Bergen, Leeds International, Oxford and IDFA (Amsterdam) film festivals. It was released in movie theaters in select cities in the United States in March 2007 through Magnolia Pictures. The DVD was released nationally in June 7, 2007, in the joint effort Magnolia Pictures and Red Envelope Entertainment .

Scurlock’s purpose for this film and book was to raise awareness of how credit and lending issues are affecting society. The main premises of the documentary and book are that banks and other creditors deliberately market to people who are more likely to have problems paying predatory lending and that the creditors benefit from connections to government, the debt collection industry, and from lawmaker apathy.

The non-profit organization Americans for Fairness in Lending (AFFIL) has organized screenings of Maxed Out around the country as part of its work. AFFIL sustains a formal collaboration with the film.

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Black Money (Full Version)

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In Black Money, Frontline correspondent Lowell Bergman investigates this shadowy side of international business, shedding light on multinational companies that have routinely made secret payments — often referred to as “black money” — to win billions in business. “The thing about black money is you can claim it’s being used for all kinds of things,” the British reporter David Leigh tells Bergman. “You get pots of black money that nobody sees, nobody has to account for, … you can do anything you like with. Mostly what happens with black money is people steal it because they can.”

Leigh knows. In his groundbreaking reporting for The Guardian newspaper, he helped uncover one of the biggest and most complicated cases currently under investigation — a story involving a British aerospace giant, the Saudi royal family, and an $80 billion international arms deal known as Al Yamamah, or “The Dove” in Arabic. “If there was one person who was the main man behind this arms deal, it turned out it was the U.S. ambassador, Prince Bandar bin Sultan,” says Leigh.

It all started back in 1985, when the charismatic Prince Bandar was put in charge of acquiring new fighter jets for the Saudi Arabian air force. The Israeli lobby in Congress reportedly stood in the way of the United States making a deal with the Saudis, so President Ronald Reagan sent Bandar to the British. The prince approached a willing Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and they sealed the massive deal between the United Kingdom, BAE Systems (formerly British Aerospace) and the Royal Saudi Air Force.

Rumors swirled that billions in bribes had changed hands to secure the deal, but British officials denied wrongdoing. “Of course there is suspicion, and of course people are entitled to be suspicious,” says Lord Timothy Bell, who was involved in the deal from the beginning on behalf of the Thatcher government. “But as far as I’m concerned, if the British government … and the Saudi government reached a sovereign agreement over an arms contract that resulted in a tremendous number of jobs in Britain, a great deal of wealth creation in Britain, … and enabled Saudi Arabians to defend themselves, … I think that’s a jolly good contract.”

 

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