Maxed Out

Year: 2006
Country: USA
Running time: 86 mins
Screenplay: James D. Scurlock
Photography: Jon Aaron Aaseng
Editor: Alexis Spraic
Sound: Joe Miller
Music: Benoît Charest
M low level offensive language

With: Elizabeth Warren, Dave Ramsey, Mike Hudson, David Szwak, Bud Hibbs, Alan Greenspan

Festivals: SXSW 2006
Previewing documentaries for this year’s Film Festival has often felt like an immersion course in American decadence. One of the most potent examples, James Scurlock’s exploration of the vastness of the debt that underlies the American economy, is as visceral as it is illuminating. If Scurlock is the most alarming of commentators, it may be because he’s so well grounded in the world he describes. (He worked on Bush Sr’s campaign and was voted most conservative classmate at finance school.) His primary subject is credit card companies and how they hook those most likely to run up debts: the young and the poor. Interest on debt is such a huge earner that debt itself is a major industry, and one well connected to the White House. The moral vacuum at the heart of an overspending society is not lost on Scurlock, who intersperses his encounters with bankers, pawnbrokers and debt collectors with the heart-wrenching testimony of their profitable victims.

“Reasoned but deeply emotional, a consistently compelling cockeyed look at George Bush’s ‘ownership society’.” — PopMatters