Interview: Charles Ferguson

Charles Ferguson is the policy wonk of the documentary film world. A self-made millionaire with a PhD in political science, Ferguson made his debut with No End in Sight, a persuasively insightful examination of the faulty intelligence that led the United States into war with Iraq. His approach is more analytical than similar filmmakers. With compelling interviews and data, the Oscar-nominated No End in Sight cites specific problems and details their implications. Ferguson’s follow-up is Inside Job, a scathing indictment of those responsible for the ongoing financial crisis. It articulates complex financial machinations in easily digestible terms, and its alarming conclusions make Inside Job one of the year’s most important movies. When I talked with Ferguson about his latest film, I was struck by the lucidity of his answers, as well as his quiet outrage over what he uncovered.

What event in particular inspired you to make this movie?

Lehman weekend, or should I say Lehman, Merrill Lynch, and AIG weekend? When three of the largest financial institutions in the world collapse simultaneously, people begin wondering whether they’re going to be able to get money out of the ATM. By that time, I already had conversations with many people about the subject. Two of my friends, both of whom are in the film, cogently warned me in 2007 about the oncoming crisis. And when it did occur, one of my first thoughts was, “Well, I’ve got to make a movie about this.”

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