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Fed study stays in the middle


Liberty Street Films presents a documentary written and directed by Jim Bruce. Running time: 104 minutes. No MPAA rating. Opens Friday at Landmark Century Centre.

Updated: October 21, 2013 6:09AM

Does the Federal Reserve know what it’s doing and does it do good? Director Jim Bruce answers in his informing if not inflaming documentary “Money for Nothing: Inside The Federal Reserve.”

Created in 1913, the Federal Reserve alters the money supply and interest rates to manage America’s economy. “American Dollar Dominates World” reads a 1919 New York Times headline in Bruce’s film.

The financial collapse of 2008 is analyzed by investors, historians and economists. One is finance prof Raghuram Rajan, on leave from University of Chicago to head the Reserve Bank of India. Former chairman Paul Volcker and eleven other Fed execs offer insider views.

“The real currency of the world is trust,” narrates Liev Schreiber with a trustworthy tone. “Faith” is the default term used throughout “Money for Nothing,” which is partly about the Fed making money from nothing. There could be more on greed than a Michael Douglas sound bite from Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street.”

Bad theory is another factor: “Trying to overturn an intellectual consensus forged amongst the best economists in the world is not easy,” observes one expert.

“Inside Job,” Charles Ferguson’s 2010 documentary, indicted execs and academics party to the 2008 debacle. Bruce, though, bills his film as “non-partisan, non-conspiracy-theorist.” No political remedy is implied by shots of Athens street riots or Ron Paul. In his 2009 book “End the Fed,” that presidential aspirant warned of presidentially appointed members of the Federal Reserve Board wielding “massive power to break civilization.”

Bruce studies the Fed with his own incentives. In 2006 he began emailing his pseudonymous “Mr. Mike’s Money Letter.” Soon after, his put options on Ambac Financial and American International Group supplied funds to launch his directing debut. His next films will look into the energy and agricultural sectors of the economy.

Bill Stamets is a Chicago free-lance writer.

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