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The Panama Papers (2018)

A documentary feature film about the biggest global corruption scandal in history, and the hundreds of journalists who risked their lives to break the story.


Alex Winter


Alex Winter
4,301 ( 9)





Credited cast:
Luke Harding Luke Harding
Frederik Obermaier Frederik Obermaier
Bastian Obermayer Bastian Obermayer
Elijah Wood ... John Doe (voice)


A documentary feature film about the biggest global corruption scandal in history, and the hundreds of journalists who risked their lives to break the story.

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Release Date:

6 October 2018 (USA) See more »

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Extremely relevant documentary about tax evasion, without neglecting dangers involved in revealing those secrets. Difficult topic to find appropriate visuals for
22 December 2018 | by JvH48See all my reviews

Saw this at IDFA 2018, the International Documentary Festival in Amsterdam. The movie makes abundantly clear that corruption in the broadest sense of the word, is not confined to countries far away. Politicians in Europe and USA, as well as "fellow" citizens with more money than they can spend in a life time, go at any length to hide their assets. They do that mainly for tax evasion purposes. That observation is extra painful, given that richness and poverty are very unevenly distributed. By refusing to pay their fair share of taxes, they also avoid contributing to the solution of these problems.

This movie presents a very relevant overview of the situation as it is nowadays. However, as a movie it has its problems, because it is a difficult story to find appropriate visuals with. Talking heads are inevitable around topics like this, but what can be shown in the background, next to what they tell us?? The subjects are relevant, so that is not the issue here. But showing documents in passing, thereby highlighting text fragments and signatures, totally out of context, does not work for me. This form of presentation is not attractive in any way.

There are relevant remarks about the risks for the journalists involved. Ditto for the whistle blowers who provide the ground work for the published articles. The movie mentions some earlier whistle blowers, Manning and Snowden, despite having played their role in a very different context. Their names are explicitly mentioned here, if only to emphasize that their lives drastically changed after they went public. We know what happened to these two, which might work as a deterrent for followers in their footsteps. And the one journalist involved in the Panama papers, who lately became the victim of a car bomb, is also a frightening perspective. Their adversaries are powerful, their pockets are deep enough to pay any straw man, or assembling an army of sollicitors, and thus can easily get away with it.

All in all, despite some minor limitations in presenting the dry subject at hand, due to a lack of appealing visuals, the underlying issues are relevant enough to accept the lack of vividness as a fact of life, given the nature of the material.

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