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  • Summary: Margaret Atwood’s visionary work Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth is the basis for this riveting and poetic documentary on “debt” in its various forms—societal, personal, environmental, spiritual, criminal, and of course, economic. Filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal interweaves theseMargaret Atwood’s visionary work Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth is the basis for this riveting and poetic documentary on “debt” in its various forms—societal, personal, environmental, spiritual, criminal, and of course, economic. Filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal interweaves these (sometimes surprising) debtor/creditor relationships: two families in a years-long Albanian blood feud; the BP oil spill vs. the Earth; mistreated Florida tomato farm workers and their bosses; imprisoned media mogul Conrad Black and the U.S. justice system. (Zeitgeist Films) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 11
  2. Negative: 0 out of 11
  1. Reviewed by: Rick Groen
    Apr 21, 2012
    75
    Payback is nothing if not brave. It's a documentary attempt to give concrete shape to an abstract discussion, using the medium of film to transplant a nuanced thesis – on the concept of debt – from its natural home on the printed page.
  2. Reviewed by: Noel Murray
    Apr 25, 2012
    67
    Payback attempts something impressively difficult, but it succeeds primarily in its individual moments.
  3. Reviewed by: Mark Feeney
    Jun 21, 2012
    63
    Debt is bad, we can all agree, as is its conceptual cousin, greed. It would have been intellectually bracing, though, to have a Gordon Gekko equivalent on hand to argue otherwise.
  4. Reviewed by: Rob Nelson
    Apr 21, 2012
    60
    Payback is a rarefied conceptual documentary that will appeal to a limited but highly appreciative audience.
  5. Reviewed by: Andrew Schenker
    Apr 24, 2012
    60
    While the movie occasionally stretches too far to maintain thematic coherence, its momentum is sustained by the urgency of its case studies, as well as the sense of outrage at the injustices perpetuated at the behest of powerful monetary interests and its striking imagery.
  6. Reviewed by: V.A. Musetto
    Apr 27, 2012
    50
    All are subjects worthy of discussion, but tackling them in one film disrupts the movie's momentum and shortchanges viewers. Baichwal could have devoted a single film to just BP's disgraceful behavior.
  7. Reviewed by: Duane Byrge
    Apr 21, 2012
    40
    Aesthetically, it's desultory. Talking-heads rants and ruminations are further stultified by the amateurish aesthetics. Visually, zooms, pans and filler moments enervate the message. Most annoying, the dour music grates throughout; its hollow grinding, we'd guess, is an attempt to impart profundity.

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