Movie Details

Television documentarian Leslie Cockburn makes her feature debut with American Casino, a documentary that examines the causes and repercussions of the American financial collapse of the late 2000s. Cockburn interviews bankers and former bankers about their roles and what they observed. The roots of the collapse are traced back to the December 2000 passage of the Commodities Futures Modernization Act, a deregulation bill proposed by then-senator Phil Gramm. The film details how the passage of that bill allowed financial institutions like Bear Stearns to make billions by repackaging mortgages into "esoteric products" like CDOs. In addition to looking at how these complex moneymaking schemes crippled the financial and insurance industries, Cockburn takes a hard look at the devastating impact of the mortgage crisis in both inner-city Baltimore and Stockton, CA. The film points out that African-Americans were four times as likely to obtain a subprime mortgage as whites, suggesting that they were specifically targeted by predatory lenders. Cockburn shows the devastation wreaked on individual lives and the community by evictions and bankruptcies. She also explores the environmental impact the crisis has had on upper-middle-class Stockton, where abandoned swimming pools have become a breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes and rodents, and where abandoned homes are broken into and converted into meth labs. American Casino had its world premiere at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival, where it was shown in the Discovery section. ~ Josh Ralske, Rovi