Popcorn Picks: Payback

Genre: Documentary

Director: Jennifer Baichwal

Choice Quote:  “How we think about (debt) changes how it works.” – Margaret Atwood

What’s it about?: Based on the Margaret Atwood book Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, the film explores debt from financial, social, ecological and criminal perspectives. At once a literal discussion and a philosophical deconstruction, the documentary features interviews and discussions with notables including Raj Patel, Conrad Black, William Rees and Atwood herself.

Is it any good?: Ultimately, Payback isn’t trying to tell you anything. Rather, all of the players and their predicaments, from a repentant thief who terrorized a Holocaust survivor to an Albanian blood feud to the BP oil spill, prompt viewers to question what exactly debt is. How do we find ourselves in it? How do we get out of it? Can one truly repay all debts? What if they refuse?

The idea of the forgiveness of debt is touched on – and it would have been nice to see more of it – but that could fill a whole other film. Instead, Payback implores you to consider debt in all itsforms, and if it can ever truly be repaid. And that consideration tends to linger long after you’ve left the theatre.

Can I bring my kids and grandkids to see it?: Absolutely. The concept would be lost on young children, but for teens and older the film asks questions that may serve them well to consider early in life.

See it in theatres or rent it?: It doesn’t require a big screen and, sadly, the content will likely be relevant for a long time to come.

Overall Popcorn Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Payback is playing now in Toronto, and opens on March 23 in Vancouver and March 25 in Victoria. More Canadian release dates are expected.