Charles Ferguson's anatomy-of-a-financial-crisis film "Inside Job" -- in which he documents in a sober, level-headed tone the 2008 economic crash and buttonholes academics, government officials and Wall Street executives he believes were responsible -- provokes plenty of rage about how we got into such a fiscal mess. (It also has angered some of the people it depicts, such as former Federal Reserve Board governor Frederic Mishkin, who is called to task for a report he authored; in an op-ed in the Financial Times earlier this month, he offered this rebuttal.)
We caught up with Ferguson, who previously directed the anatomy-of-a-military-crisis movie "No End in Sight," to hear his latest views on the economy, the reaction to the film and whether he thinks the "tea party" has the answers.
One of the most scathing aspects of the film is how you implicate Barack Obama and his administration for perpetuating the crisis with its lax oversight of Wall Street. Do you foresee a new direction for the administration now, especially with the resignation of Larry Summers?
I don't see much change at all. And the small amount of change we do see is driven by political fear as opposed to a real change in sentiment or policy. The underlying rules of the game have not changed very much.
Why do you think most people have been slow to recognize, then, that this has not just been a George W. Bush problem?
I think that many people in America believe by supporting and voting for Barack Obama they would be fixing this problem, and part of the emotional difficulty for Americans is to come to terms with the fact that it's not the case. It's a bipartisan problem. You can't just address it by voting for a different kind of party or candidate. It's going to be longer and harder take a bottom-up change, like the civil rights movement or the environment.
In the eyes of many Americans, the tea party has taken up that mantle. What do you make of their place in prompting reform?
I think in a situation where people are under a great deal of economic stress, it's natural to get movements like this. But traditionally in American history they don't last a very long time. The more significant question is whether there's going to be a serious movement for reform, which I don't take the tea party to be.
Why is that?