Boom Bust Boom Review

   How does one take a spectacularly dry topic such as the economy, tied up as it is in impenetrable lingo, and make it the basis of a wholly entertaining feature film?  A movie as full of canny wit and perspicacious humour as it is knowledgeable insight?

   The answer, if Boom Bust Boom is anything to go by, then, is to add puppets, animation and sculpt a vaudevillian, slapstick documentary lecture of sorts. And, knowing as we do now just how much of a farce the latest international banking collapses have been, why not? There's something truly fitting here in form and content.

   Directed by the father-son duo of Bill and Terry "Monty Python" Jones alongside Ben Timlett, Boom Bust Boom represents a concise, albeit dense and richly packed, examination of the 2008 international financial crisis and how, rather than occurring as an anomaly, the boom-bust cycle has recurred throughout the history of capitalism. The film, as Terry Jones notes during the introduction, shows us “how human nature drives the economy to crisis after crisis, time and time again.” Through a series of vignettes, animated segues and a multitude of recoginsable talking heads (ranging from John Cusack to Paul Krugman and Paul Mason), the documentary takes us through the history of finance and presents to us a series of cataclysmic economic catastrophes which could, and should, have been avoided.



   Yet, rather than simply sermonise, the documentary makes us laugh through highlighting some of the more irrational behaviours we humans possess. Perhaps even more so than the interjected sequences from South Park and The Life of Brian, there's something darkly humorous in the sheer hubris and damaging chutzpah displayed by economists throughout the ages as evidenced in the film. We may now be well aware of the fallibility of the sub-prime housing market but it is truly astonishing to be presented with a well-researched example of the "Tulip-mania" bubble occurring way back in mainland Europe during the 1560s.

   However, like Adam McKay's The Big Short this is a comedic film with a serious message. If, as Boom Bust Boom posits, our students are taught to ignore the lessons of the past and to accept, without question, the immutable orthodoxies of the free market, how can we possibly avoid the inevitable implosions of markets which have plagued the financial sector since its conception? After each mistake, banks are bailed out with public money - with the taxes we pay to staff our hospitals and to care for elderly - and, therefore, it is important we commit ourselves to greater understanding. Every penny spent by the government on propping up the fiscal irresponsibility and clandestine gambles of bankers is a penny taken out of the NHS.

   Thankfully, due to a smart script co-written by Jones Snr and Dutch economist Theo Kocken, it is possible to come away from a screening of Boom Bust Boom with a greater understanding of the differences between "financial economy" and "real economy", sub-prime markets and, crucially, the distinction between investment and speculation. If only it could be so that the works of Michael Lewis, the banking sequence in Mary Poppins, and this documentary could be added to Economics' syllabuses - perhaps then we could finally look forward to a future in which financial bubbles are consigned to history much like an avarice for flower bulbs.


Boom Bust Boom opens in London on March 23 and is available On Demand from March 29. 

Be sure to follow the film on Twitter here.
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