iousa

Documentaries that don’t simply engage and entertain but fundamentally change the way you think about the world are rare treats indeed. For me personally, the only examples that come to mind are No End in Sight and Gasland, polemics about the Iraq War and fracking, respectively. (Why yes, I do tend to vote Democrat. Why do you ask?) I recently came across another such example to add to the list.

I.O.U.S.A. is a documentary about the United States’ national debt…

Whoa, whoa! Wait! Come back! Uh…Rihanna! The Bachelorette! The right way to parent!

I know, I know. Not only is this topic not sexy, it’s downright depressing. Like, ‘What are we going to do?!?’ depressing. No one ever said changing your worldview was going to be easy.

The film is divided into four parts, each representing different examples of deficit the U.S. definitely and / or arguably suffers from: Budget, Savings, Trade and Leadership. Man-on-the-street interviews are sprinkled throughout to illustrate the knowledge deficit (see what I did there?) among the hoi polloi.  (Although I invariably wonder what percentage of well-informed people are pointedly omitted in order for filmmakers to make their point. I pray it’s a lot.)

The stars of the film, as it were, are David Walker, former U.S. Comptroller-General, and Robert Bixby, director of the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan political advocacy group dedicated to raising awareness on matters of the national debt. The two are seen in the film traveling the country and participating in speaking engagements as part of their Fiscal Wake-Up Tour, which generates exactly as much interest and excitement among the public as you would imagine. Walker is as intelligent and passionate about the topic as I imagine a former U.S. Comptroller-General is programmed to be, but for my money Bixby steals the show, appearing perpetually bemused despite his role as combination Paul Revere / Grim Reaper.

See this movie. Expand your mind. Particularly if your primary voting criterion is “any candidate who talks like me.”

And after you’ve seen the movie, which was released in 2008, do what I did and look up where the national debt stands now relative to the figures stated in the movie. Boom. Worldview change complete.

Then, after taking your bitter civic medicine, go ahead reward yourself with a lollypop of an uplifting documentary by the same director (Patrick Creadon): If You Build It. It chronicles the trials and tribulations of designer Emily Pilloton and architect Matt Miller, a young energetic couple who accept an invitation to Bertie County, North Carolina, to start a modern design-oriented high school shop class. The semester is broken into three project phases, with each project ever more ambitious. You can’t help but root for everyone in this effortlessly enjoyable movie.

Share this post: