Hot Docs ’11: Recessionize! For Fun and Profit!

Posted: May 2, 2011 in Film Reviews, Hot Docs
Tags: , ,

Director Jamie Kastner tries out homeless chic in Recessionize! For Fun and Profit!“Recession” became a word most people personally learned the meaning of in the last couple of years. There was a lot of belt tightening as the world’s economy collapsed under pressure; companies and countries requested bailouts; and thousands joined the unemployment line.

However, as documentary director Jamie Kastner points out, it’s not the rich that are suffering – most of them are still basking in lavish luxury – but the middle-class who are experiencing the brunt of the burden. So he’s decided to make a film that cheers these people up by exploring the plus sides of a recession. In Recessionize! For Fun and Profit!, Kastner outlines 15 steps to being happy and enjoying a recession.

The result is a mix of satire and bizarre innovations. First is the satire, during which Kastner interviews people who are profiting from the misfortune of others by reselling the lost property of others. Of course he avoids being a downer by shining the spotlight on capitalists preying on millionaires who have lost their mansions and private jets, but it’s not hard to extrapolate to the families that lost their homes and vehicles. He also interviews a woman who is basically a professional squatter – a new role for the home impaired. Although, one of the more interesting developments emerges from a class for children that teaches them to be money smart. Their takeaway from the program? “Pay yourself first.” But isn’t that where part of the problem stemmed?

The more amusing elements discussed originate in Europe. These ventures include a tailor that’s produced a £43,000 (almost CAD $68,000) suit, but refuses to talk about it; a brothel that offers discounts to customers that arrive via eco-friendly transportation; and a hamster hotel (for humans). The recession has definitely led to some interesting innovations.

Through each step, which includes titles such as “Roll with the Market”, “Beg, Borrow, Steal” and “Don’t Forget to Relax”, we are guided by Kastner’s upbeat personality. He simply radiates optimism. But for the occasional moment in which his subject has dumbfounded him with their response, Kastner has left his reaction in the final cut.

At approximately five minutes per step, the film moves along at a pretty fast clip. And even though not all 15 segments are entertaining (see step six that centres on a lunch truck), it easily maintained my interest for most of the documentary.

Recessionize! For Fun and Profit! is playing as part of Hot Docs on Thursday, May 5 at 9:45 pm at the ROM Theatre and Saturday, May 7 at 6:30 pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

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