Independent Lens: Season 8, Episode 22

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (13 Oct. 2005)

TV Episode  -   -  Documentary
7.9
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 4,493 users   Metascore: 82/100
Reviews: 74 user | 234 critic | 37 from Metacritic.com

Corporate audio and videotapes tell the inside story of the scandal involving one company's manipulation of California's energy supply and its, and how its executives wrung a billion dollars out of the resulting crisis.

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Cast

Episode credited cast:
...
Narrator
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
John Beard ...
Himself
...
Herself (archive footage)
...
Himself
Jim Chanos ...
Himself
Dick Cheney ...
Himself
...
Himself (archive footage)
Carol Coale ...
Herself
...
Himself
Reggie Dees II ...
Young man the stripper dances in front of (as Reggie Deets II)
Joseph Dunn ...
Himself
Max Eberts ...
Himself
Peter Elkind ...
Himself
Andrew Fastow ...
Himself
David Freeman ...
Himself
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Storyline

Based on the best-selling book of the same name by Fortune reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, a multidimensional study of one of the biggest business scandals in American history. The chronicle takes a look at one of the greatest corporate disasters in history, in which top executives from the 7th largest company in this country walked away with over one billion dollars, leaving investors and employees with nothing. The film features insider accounts and rare corporate audio and video tapes that reveal colossal personal excesses of the Enron hierarchy and the utter moral vacuum that posed as corporate philosophy. The human drama that unfolds within Enron's walls resembles a Greek tragedy and produces a domino effect that could shape the face of our economy and ethical code for years to come. Written by Sujit R. Varma

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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It's Just Business

Genres:

Documentary

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and some nudity | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

13 October 2005 (Australia)  »

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 »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$76,639 (USA) (22 April 2005)

Gross:

$4,064,421 (USA) (16 September 2005)
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1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Among the protesters who disrupt the meeting with Jeff Skilling at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club is Marla Ruzicka, who was killed on 16 April 2005 in Iraq by a suicide bomber. She founded CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims of Conflict) which worked to help the victims of the war in Iraq and she was a former Global Exchange activist. See more »

Quotes

Kenneth Lay: [Enron Executive Officer Ken Lay holds a meeting of investors after shady financial dealings of the company have recently been revealed] We're down to questions, and I've got a few of 'em here... I would like to know if you are on crack... If so, that would explain a lot, if not, you may want to start because it's going to be a long time before we trust you again.
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Crazy Credits

Special thanks includes "all the `Deep Throats' - you know who you are!" See more »

Connections

Features Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

What's He Building?
Written by Tom Waits
Jalma Music
Performed by Tom Waits
Courtesy of Anti/Epitaph Records
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User Reviews

 
An American Tragedy
9 August 2005 | by See all my reviews

This film is a profoundly entertaining chronicle of American corporate power run amok. Profound because as it dramatizes the rise and fall of Enron, the film casts a longer shadow over the still largely unchanged corporate environment that spawned this smoke and mirrors company. Entertaining due to clever use of storytelling devices, imagery and soundtrack, despite what looks to be a low budget.

The film's strength is in its portrait of the massive "group think" inside and outside of the corporation that supported Enron's rise. It is astounding and chilling to look back on the cheer leading role played by banks, financial media, accounting firms and government. And though Enron, the film, may be weak on explaining how the company built itself up from a simple gas pipeline business to a post-modern corporate megalith, it was probably a wise choice to leave detailed descriptions of the financial manipulations to the book of the same name. The film, does though, miss an opportunity early on to provide a basic explanation of the central paradox of Enron -- earning heaps of money by exploiting commodities trading and accounting methods, while losing heaps of money in real world ventures. Enron set up its first commodities trading desk to capitalize on inside knowledge of the gas business, and then tried to replicate this model with water, broadband, electricity, etc. In actually a trading firm, Enron evaded investment firm regulations by portraying itself as an industrial firm.

Yet, despite some shortcomings, the storytelling is powerful, especially the eye-opening dramatization of Enron's role and the political manipulations behind the California energy-crisis. After viewing the suffering of average Californians, juxtaposed against the callousness of Enron's West Coast energy traders, it felt good to see Kenneth Lay walking in handcuffs.

More than once, the phrase, "this can happen again," echos in the film. It has happened before -- leveraged buyouts, the Savings and Loan crisis, the burst Internet IPO bubble, the 1920s Stock Market crash. A new financial vehicle generates untold riches for some, goes bust, and millions, sometimes billions ... disappear. Enron, the film, is the textbook on how one corporation recently stole from investors, employees and its "customers."

Ask why do we keep on letting this happen.


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