As rocketing urbanisation collides with stagnant wages and a lack of affordable housing around the world, Fredrik Gertten’s clarion call to arms shows how global finance giants turn homes into assets.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2019
Social and urban planning documentarian Fredrik Gertten follows Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, on an eye-opening, jaw-dropping journey from Toronto to long-established communities under threat of annihilation in cities like New York, Uppsala, Seoul and São Paolo.
Shadowy private equity firms have become the biggest landlords in the world, explain sociologist Saskia Sassen and economist Joseph Stiglitz. The extent of this high-end land grab, which goes way beyond gentrification, is illustrated by a map of London spotted like a measles outbreak, depicting a mass of foreign-owned residential property, 80% untenanted. Why? Buildings that function as assets are much more profitable.
And where does that money go? Tax havens, according to journalist Roberto Saviano (Gomorrah), places where “criminal capitalism and legal capitalism meet and merge,” uniting beneficiaries like Queen Elizabeth II, Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero, and Apple.
This pacy, relentless and unnerving documentary by the director of The Socialist, the Architect and the Twisted Tower (NZIFF07) and Bikes vs Cars is given heart by passionate residents aghast at how communities are being stolen, and fighting a system that is “backwards and broken and based on lies.” Hope is offered by citizen resistance erupting from Berlin to Barcelona, but by the end of this exposé you may feel in need of at least one of the 24 shots lined up by the Toronto bartender in the film’s opening scene to assuage the righteous anger it will inevitably provoke. — Mark Cubey