Bailout a Welcome Wake-up Call for LA

April 23, 2012

It’s easy to rip on them, but you can’t blame the citizens of Los Angeles, or Hollywood in particular, for being jaded. Inundated with vital new causes and grand vision on a daily basis, it’s a desensitized indifference rivaled only by an American public that is so accustomed to being lied to, that they’d rather watch people getting knocked into pools by giant boxing gloves as opposed to any pretense of real social awareness.
But if the standing ovation received by last Saturday’s Hollywood premiere of the hybridized narrative documentary “Bailout!” proves anything, it’s that in both cases, that numbness need not be a permanent condition. Tell people the truth, no matter how unnerving, and the sound will be so foreign and revelatory that they will have no choice but to respond.
“We made this movie because people are getting pulverized into fine white powder all across the country,” said executive producer and onscreen subject John Titus.
The latest, and yes, strangest, in a string of financial-crisis-exploring films including “Inside Job” and Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story”, “Bailout!” plunges the furthest down the gullet of American greed of any so far. By combining expert commentary and gut-wrenching citizen testimonial with a booze-fueled “geriatric Jackass” road trip to Las Vegas, the documentary uses gambling as a metaphor to posit a painfully simple observation:
When individuals gamble they lose. But when banks gamble? Not so much.
Timed to coincide with Saturday’s All in for the 99% art and music event at the ACE Museum on 4th and La Brea, which was organized by Apple Via and attended by the likes of Jason Alexander, Marisa Tomei and street artist Shepard Fairey, it’s yet another testament to the power of unabashed honesty, that the appeal of “Bailout!” was such that it drew dozens of people away from that event, despite taking place at the same time as a keynote by activist and former Obama adviser Van Jones.
Indeed, the sign above the marquee on North Fairfax Avenue may have read Silent Film Theatre, but the 7:00pm LA debut of “Bailout!” was anything but. Satiated by the booze, food truck grub and dishes of dollar-bill wrapped candies offered at the pre-screening patio reception, a 100-strong audience, both young and old, active 99%-ers and non-initiates alike poured into the cozy, black and white photo-lined Cinefamily theater. All of them eager to discover just how screwed-over they really were.
Director Sean Fahey spoke briefly before the film and invoked the name of “Sesame Street” in an attempt to explain the dual focus on education and entertainment, although admittedly a bit more crass, that was vital to the project’s overall accessibility. With boisterous laughs erupting just minutes into the screening and continuing liberally throughout, it was apparent that the audience had immediately dialed in on the humor, while a demonstration of the piece’s dual ability to inform came via a post-screening Q&A that was passionate, engaging and surprisingly raucous.
“I’ve seen ‘Inside Job’ 4 or 5 times and this film goes way farther in terms of effectively explaining how the fraud actually took place,” said one attendee during the Q&A, to an outburst of cheers.
Unsatisfied with an already lengthy round of comments and questions, the bulk of the crowd followed Titus, Fahey and company back out to the patio for an impromptu post-screening party that saw filmgoers eagerly huddled underneath over-hangs and heat lamps despite the chilly breeze and continuous drizzle. An undeniable example of the power of knowledge to invigorate, the reception was equals parts frenzied meet-up and town hall meeting.
Simply put, the atmosphere was… inspiring.
“The film has really recharged me with energy to go back and fight my own personal battle,“ asserted an LA local in danger of losing his home.
Having tackled previous efforts in Pakistan, Lebanon and South Sudan, director Sean Fahey was by no means a stranger to tragedy. And yet never expected find it so readily, both down the street and across the country. Already talking of a European-based sequel and with a newly announced IndieGOGO fundraising campaign, the “Bailout!” team appears as fiery as ever and eagerly preparing for May’s forthcoming premieres in both New York City and the director's native Chicago.
A top-to-bottom reckoning that revels in being anything but subtle, “Bailout!” succeeds while largely sidestepping the corporate media that has so blatantly failed its viewership, and proves that if respected and equipped with real facts, that Americans will be anything but complacent.
Visit Bailout’s indieGOGO page here: www.indiegogo.com/bailout