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|2 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film isn't really about the Egyptian revolution, but much more
about the effect of the Egyptian revolution on a group of friends with
cameras who find themselves nearby to it. But they are isolated figures
from the dynamics of the revolution, very distant bystanders and they
finally evacuate. This is understandable, they are not professional
journalists, one has a child, and they do manage some footage of some
government thugs gathering in the streets, and other dangerous
developments, but most of the content is footage of their reactions,
their excitement, to fear, to confusion, etc.
In this context, the film is interesting in its own right. The perspective and disruption of westernised middle-class young adults is still a valid perspective. But it is hardly an example of the illuminating future of citizen journalism. A viewer leaves this film with basically no greater understanding of the politics, power structures, or plight of an average Egyptian, nor their take on the revolution. They have ample opportunity to dig, to interview bystanders, but they don't.
All the really strong footage of the developments, the attack in the square, etc, has been taken from traditional news outlets. Unlike the people in the streets, the viewer is acutely away that these filmmakers can leave whenever they want. And that is exactly what they do, well before the revolution reaches its apex. It's not a bad film, it is just only goes about 1/2 as far as it needs to.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When a documentary attempts to tackle the most important issues of a
generation, from financial instability, to environmental degradation
and terrorism, it really needs to be backed up with a lot of solid
research. Unfortunately, Four Horsemen hopelessly fails to live up to
its ambitions. It touches on everything from the decline of empires, to
the expansion of credit and disastrous banking deregulation.
It rightfully highlights the asset bubbles, the failures of foreign aid and the counter productive nature of much of the west's foreign policy. But touch is the generous word, as most issues are addressed with little more than a talking head tied together with some slick animation and stock footage. The film is strongest when stating the obvious, highlighting the offences of the banking industry, the predatory lending and illegal foreclosures. Indeed, when describing exactly what is wrong, Four Horsemen takes few risks and lands some critical blows, a welcome reintroduction for a debate that is most conspicuous by its absence.
But the first warning sign for the film is when the entire history of human economics is framed in the terms of Classical versus Neoclassical, followed by the pushing of quite extreme Libertarian pet causes proposed as the only possible solutions. It marks wholly disingenuous connections regarding the glory days of the gold standard and becomes almost comical when it praises FDR on one hand and then claims 'income tax is inherently unconstitutional' on the other.
A few quotes from the US Constitution and a lecture on the decline of morality, and the whole film starts to feel like a Ron Paul 2012 direct to YouTube creation. Then when casual remarks drop like: 'perhaps global warming isn't the greatest threat to our planet, but the depletion of resources', (a statement that so comprehensively against mainstream scientific opinion which contends we cannot afford to burn even the oil we have found), and the film starts to make Zeitgeist appear the model of impartial reasoning.
When this is rapidly followed by 'all foreign aid is bad', suddenly the minuscule on screen presence of the most lauded guests, such highly respected development economic Ha-Joon Chang (who appears on screen just twice for a total of about sixty seconds), and the motives behind the recurring presence of the gold and silver traders becomes a little clearer. The producers of Four Horsemen may be well meaning, and who isn't rightfully outraged at the 'heads we win, tails you lose' attitude of Goldman Sachs and their ilk, or the ridiculous disconnect between real wages and real estate prices? I also doubt the proposition that 'we need more employee owned businesses' would ever lose a show of hands outside a GOP convention.
But overflowing as the film is with justified indignation, the proposed solutions have all the hallmarks of a stock Libertarian: 'tax is theft, government is bad' economic thesis, albeit cleverly packaged to sneak in front of a left leaning cinema audience.