The 2008 financial meltdown cost millions of Americans their jobs and their homes, and left many looking for someone to blame. In his documentary Inside Job, filmmaker Charles Ferguson points the finger squarely at the American financial industry.
Wall Street, Ferguson argues, was rife with greed, and corrupted both government and academia to rake in enormous profits in the years leading up to the market crash. Ferguson uses interviews with bankers, economists, journalists and government officials to make his case.
The filmmaker was weighing ideas for several different documentaries in late 2008 when increasingly bleak financial headlines helped make his decision for him. "It seemed irresistible," he tells NPR's Neal Conan. "When gigantic financial institutions began collapsing on approximately a weekly basis, and then of course in September of 2008 on practically a daily basis, it seemed that there was something very important here."
Ferguson acknowledges that some individuals who found themselves in dire financial straits after the mortgage crisis hit had made irresponsible financial choices. "There's some degree of individual responsibility in any bubble, in any large-scale financial phenomenon," he says. "Americans were consuming when they should not have been."
But Ferguson feels the system of skewed incentives, and the culture of the financial industry as a whole, were the main drivers behind the market crash and ensuing recession. "What happened was a series of regulatory, political, policy [and] business changes that made it possible for a relatively small number of people ... to create a gigantic bubble ... a national and even global level Ponzi scheme."