Spread of privatisation questioned

Florian Opitz, a German filmmaker whose latest work takes a critical look at the impact of privatisation on people’s lives, says the selling off of state holdings has become an “unchallenged ideology”.

The Big Sellout, to open in German cinemas on Thursday, explores the effects of privatisation on rail, healthcare and other public services.
The documentary, which features lengthy interviews with Joseph Stiglitz, the former World Bank chief economist, will also be released shortly in the United States, Sweden, Austria and Switzerland, Opitz said on Wednesday.
Spread of privatisation

Opitz told Reuters news agency: “What really bothered me before starting this was that everyone said you can’t do anything about the spread of privatisation, even though it affects so many people in such a fundamental way.

“If people are informed about the potential impact of privatisation on healthcare, railways, power suppliers and still want it, that’s their choice.

“But they’re usually left in the dark. My aim was to show privatisation’s impact on people.”

While insisting he is anything but a fan of Michael Moore, the US filmmaker, and his confrontational approach, Opitz’s English-language film Der Grosse Ausverkauf – as it is titled in German – is similar in style.

‘Dangerous system’

Featured in the documentary, Simon, a British train driver, says he once worked for the most efficient railway system in Europe, but since its privatisation, it has become run-down and dangerous.

“Privatisation has become such an unchallenged ideology,” said Opitz, who spent four-and-a-half years on the film which has financial backing from German public television.

“It is not a law of nature. Too many people shrug and say ‘What can you do?'”

In another segment of the four-part story, a poor mother in the Philippines struggles to raise money for the dialysis her son needs.

In the end, hospital staff tells her she should just accept that she cannot afford her son’s treatment and let him die.

‘Guerrilla electricians’

The third story is about a South African activist and his “guerrilla electricians” who risk their lives helping families illegally re-connect their power after a privatised electric company switched it off over unpaid bills.

The fourth story is about violent protests in Bolivia in 2000 that accompanied – and prevented – attempts by the local congress to impose charges for water they had received free.

“Sell now, pay later – our world is being privatised,” said 34-year-old Opitz.

“This looks behind the abstract idea of privatising basic public services.”

He said: “Who will have access to water, energy, public transport and healthcare? Only those who can afford it.”

Opitz’s film has been featured in festival screenings in Toronto, Chicago, Berlin and Hong Kong.

Ref: Al Jazzera

3 Responses

  1. For those of you interested on the effects of privatization on ordinary individual, especially when MNCs privatize essential infrastructure such as water, electricty, railways and health care, you should check out the new documentary “The Big Sell-Out.”

    This documentary challenges current economic orthodoxy in contending that the dogmatic claims of the international business establishment for neo-liberal development policies are not supported by modern economic science. More importantly, it dramatically demonstrates how the implementation of these policies is having disastrous consequences for millions of ordinary people around the globe.

    While national and international economic discourse is fixated on increasing efficiency and economic growth, The Big Sellout reminds us that there are faces behind the statistics. It raises serious questions about the neo-liberal credo that government best serves the public interest by becoming a servant to corporate interests. But brave individuals, like those showcased in this important new film, are standing up and demanding an alternative to the prevailing neo-liberal model, a model that the film shows to be as hollow as it is unsustainable.

    In particular to Latin America, the films documents how citizens in Cochabamba, Bolivia have organized enormous protests in 2000, following the decision by the Bolivian government to sell the public water company to a private corporation, which would have made water cost-prohibitive to much of the population. The Big Sellout shows how ordinary people are fighting the neo-liberal commodification of basic public goods.

    If you are interested in obtaining a copy of this film, it is available from CA Newsreel at http://www.newsreel.org

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