Although both have been deemed worthy to be placed on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' shortlist for this year's documentary feature Oscar, neither Alex Gibney's Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer nor Charles Ferguson's Inside Job can be seen at a theater near most of you. Not yet, anyway.
Hopefully the Oscars nods will quickly change the stats on screenings, and that the smart programmers who pick up these two fine documentaries will have the creative vision to book them as a double bill...one that stars former NY State Governor Eliot Spitzer as protagonist in Client 9 and as commentator in Inside Job.
At IDFA, the documentaries festival currently in progress in Amsterdam, the two films have been smartly scheduled in sequence -- with Inside Job screening right after Client 9 in the same theater. The double bill gives Dutch and international audiences an opportunity to get the full scope of Spitzer's efforts to put an end to the corporate greed and insider economic manipulations that, despite his prosecution, lead to the crisis of banks in bankruptcy, of collapsed financial institutions and tax-funded government bailouts, and to the loss of life savings, retirement funds, homes and jobs for millions of Americans.
While Client 9 plays out all the details of Spitzer sexual shenanigans and the tabloid-fueled scandal that lead to his resignation from political life, it also shows that the fallen governor was, in his political life, as completely dedicated to disrupting corruption in government as he was to ending unethical and criminal behavior among Wall Street moguls.
If Client 9 presents a strong case that Spitzer was singularly targeted by his political and corporate enemies, Inside Job gives an insider's chapter and verse about what Spitzer was trying to change. And, in Inside Job, Spitzer appears as a strong and believable expert witness, presenting a clear picture of how Wall Street moguls manipulated economic instruments so that they made millions, while their clients lost large, and in many cases, everything.
While watching Client 9, Dutch audiences are silent and intensely attentive, but at one point they do burst into laughter. The chuckles come in response to a comment made by one of Spitzer's supporters -- that Spitzer's sexual exploits would actually win votes for him in Paris.
That's probably true -- not only in Paris, but in most capitals around the globe. And it really calls into question what it is about American culture that makes citizens so willing to so sternly condemn a stellar public servant -- Eliot Spitzer, as the prime example -- for a personal peccadillo. Maybe it's the same propensity for distraction that causes them to, as shown in Inside Job relinquish their sensibility, drop their guard and allow greedy financiers to manipulate them into behavior that leads to economic collapse and then reward them for doing it.
Client 9 and Inside Job are great as a double bill, but don't wait to see them until you can see them as such!