Profit and Nothing But, 2001
Director: Raoul Peck
Argent Marchandise Argent
Duration: 52 minutes
Available in VHS only
Distributor: First Run Icarus Films
Profit and Nothing But is a critical documentary about the emerging global economy and how the capitalist system is responsible for the misery of the world's "wretched of the earth". Director Raoul Peck, known best for his award winning film Lumumba, shot much the film in his country of birth, Haiti, where for a short time he was Minister of Culture (1996-97). Beginning with a home-video quality scene, a heavy handed voiceover insists, "They come from a country that technically doesn't exist" and that "capital has won. Capital has swept the board". Interspersed throughout the film are archived news clips of riotous crowds and violent acts, the speeches of foreign leaders, commentaries by various intellectuals (most notably Emanuel Wallerstein) and interviews with everyday Haitians in Port au Prince, all in an attempt to describe and explain just how capitalism functions and how corrupt the system is.
Regrettably, Peck succeeds only in engaging in arguments that fail to really uncover any facts of substance with regard to global capitalism's darker side. Unlike Stephanie Black's 2003 documentary Life and Debt that also opens on the beach of a Caribbean country, Peck's film takes hold of its subject matter like a sledge hammer and bashes the viewer with opinion, metaphor and sloganeering in hopes that it will turn us into conscientious objectors to globalization. For example, the film asserts that the world is run by a bunch of disturbed people who are terrified at the thought of loosing their fortunes. Whether or not this is true, the film gives absolutely no information, statistical or anecdotal, to back this claim up.
Furthermore, whereas Black's film spends significant time interviewing banana growers, dairy farmers and agricultural producers, it also devotes a great deal of in-depth coverage to policy making in order to give the viewer a sense of how globalization is sinking developing countries like Jamaica where the film is shot.
In contrast, Profit and Nothing But only scratches the surface of global policy making in its interviews. In particular, although agronomist Gerald Mathurin makes the observation that "triumphant capitalism" has succeeded in enriching the West while leaving much of the Third World in abject poverty, Peck fails to follow up on...