Bank Job is a community-driven feature film, participatory bank and playful act of economic education and change.
This mischievous feature documentary led by artist/filmmaker team Dan Edelstyn and Hilary Powell, instigates and follows a community coming together to make their own currency, opening a bank in order to examine how money and debt is created in our economy and to ask important questions about how the system of money creation might be altered in their favour.
Below, Daniel Edelstyn shares his thoughts of the making of this film:
Debt is an integral component of our current system of inequality. 97% of all money is conjured into reality at the moment when banks make loans. This means our money supply is effectively on lease from private banks – giving them inordinate power determine the course of our economic, social and common good. Yet we, the public, do not yet fully understand the way money comes into existence – and while we remain in the dark, there will be no way to change course. Our act of citizen money creation was both a way of raising real money for specific causes in the community and a way of fundraising to buy and destroy £1million of local predatory debts.
Through the film, we argue that widespread debt is the natural – though unwelcome companion to the money system we currently have and, like money, another widely misunderstood phenomenon subject to myth and moralising. From both talking to economists and our local community we discover that debt is tied to even the most basic provisions, education, healthcare, housing – as all these are being accessed through credit in one way or another. We argue that these debts are a result of a monetary system that is impoverishing multitudes by design, and which could be changed.
Bank Job came about after one of my neighbour's popped in for a cup of tea. He was clutching a copy of the Guardian newspaper in his hand. He relayed a story to me of Strike Debt, a group of US anarchists who had been associated with Occupy, who were buying up and then abolishing millions of dollars of student and medical debt. I didn't know that much about economics or to be honest, anarchism but I did feel that this was fascinating.
I’d been going through a huge personal crisis before all this. Since the completion of my first feature film, I’d been trying to remember why I'd become a filmmaker in the first place. This led me to discover George Orwell's essay 'Why I Write' and a branch of psychology created by a holocaust survivor called Viktor Frankl, who argued that human beings greatest drive was toward leading meaningful lives. I felt I couldn't return to the world I had known before my first feature - and the search for meaning collided with the discovery of this group. Before I knew it I was in discussions with the US group and on my way to New York with my most trusted friend and cameraman, Christophe Tweedie.
What started out as a plan to film something ended up becoming life-changing when we decided to see if we could buy up debt in the UK.
In order to make the movie, we had to educate ourselves and change, from looking at filmmaking as being something that outsiders did, observing action as it unfolds, to also being instigators and actors at the same time. Our films now work simultaneously as records to others and as acts of intervention in themselves - and our new project Power is no exception.. (in this new film we are setting up an artist run power station - see power.film)
We have also learned about how to attract thousands of people into our projects, joining in on the mailing lists and buying the products we sell that fuel the work itself. We are bypassing gatekeepers and doing our best to innovate in the form of documentary.