Posts Tagged ‘Natalie Bolla’

THE CHINA HUSTLE: 4 STARS. “prime example of extreme avarice.”

“There are no good guys in this story,” says financial whistleblower Dan David. “Not even me.” That’s a grabby intro for a documentary that exposes greed on a level that would make Gordon Gekko blush. “The China Hustle,” from director Jed Rothstein, is a companion piece to “Inside Job” and “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” movies about money manipulation that should send a chill down the back of anyone with an ATM card.

The story really begins after the 2008 stock market crash. Giant losses put companies in the position of having to generate large sums of cash quickly in the global market. David, like many others, looked to China. “If you want to be a criminal,” says one talking head, “it’s best to go somewhere with no cops. That was China.” China offered new markets, little oversight and he potential to print money. Cue a stock market feeding frenzy but because foreigners can’t invest directly in Chinese companies along came something called the reverse merger, a mix-and-match of American shell companies and foreign entities. It was a recipe for disaster, ripe with fraud and greed, kind of like investing your retirement money in lottery tickets.

Stories of financial malfeasance are so common that “The China Hustle” doesn’t seem like it will offer anything new. Regular folks put up their savings, lose everything while money managers and banks keep the fees. The story may be familiar but it is compelling. Greed and risk are compelling subjects and the kind of scam carefully detailed here is a prime example of extreme avarice. But why do people get sucked into these situations time and time again? It’s like the punch line of the old Wall Street joke says, “This time it is different.” And so it goes. The hope of easy money is irresistible.

You don’t need to be a trader to understand “The China Hustle.” It isn’t so much a lesson in economics as it is a film about due diligence and common sense. In the micro the film’s message can be boiled down to something everyone’s grandmother said, there’s no such thing as free money. The larger story is more complicated, like an economic detective story. It’s a timely one too. This isn’t a history lesson. The events from our recent past detailed here still reverberate and now as the Trump government seeks to deregulate banks even further, it is a story of abuse and lack of oversight that could easily repeat itself.


Beau Dick, who passed away last year at age 61, was an artist and activist born in Kingcome Inlet, a Kwakwaka’wakw village north of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. A new documentary, “Maker Of Monsters: The Extraordinary Life Of Beau Dick,” details his life from apprentice artist, learning to carve traditional totem poles from his father and grandfather, to master craftsman who mixed elements of Japanese manga and other styles into beautiful wooden masks that sell at galleries all over the world.

“My experience is that anyone who encounters a piece of Beau’s immediately has an emotional reaction,” says Vancouver gallery owner and “Maker of Monsters” co-producer LaTiesha Fazakas, “because his work is so animated and it feels like you’re encountering a character when you encounter one of his masks.”

The same could be said for the man himself. A soft-spoken narrator, he weaves the story of his growth as an artist and First Nations activist throughout this engaging documentary, building a portrait of a person one friend called magical. “You can see it in him,” she says.

“For the longest time I couldn’t recognize Beau’s work,” says collector Hervé Curat, “and to me that was magic. Too many artists have a fantastic style but they have only one. So many times I have looked at his work and thought, ‘That has to be Beau because nobody else would dare do that.’

His work as an artist and activist—we see his 2013 public copper-cutting ceremony at the BC Legislature to protest the disregard of Indigenous treaty rights—are inseparable but “Maker of Monsters” makes sure to emphasize the man behind the art and social action. The result is a loving look at the legacy of a charismatic presence whose concern for his people’s culture and the environment was genuine and wide ranging. “Who is our family?” he asks near the end of the movie. “All of us.”