There are a bunch of worthwhile documentaries out there, each with their own merits. Some are very educational and informative, some are entertaining and mind-boggling, and some are just downright shocking. I’ve picked two off of my all-time favourites list that manage to check all those boxes. If you’re a business student, chances are you’ll discuss and explore a lot of the topics covered in these documentaries so why not take a break from your regularly scheduled programming and learn a little something. Here are two documentaries every business student should watch.
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
In 2001 one of the world’s largest most successful companies went bankrupt seemingly overnight. Thousands of people were out of jobs and life savings and millions of dollars of revenue were unaccounted for. With Enron’s downfall came the dissolution of one of the world’s largest audit and accounting firms, questions about the Security and Exchange Commission’s efficacy, and the Sarbanes Oxley act to ensure it never happened again.
In Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, academy award-winning director Alex Gibney explores the crises from the inception of Enron in the 1980s, its role as the catalyst of energy deregulation in the United States, and the men behind the curtain that facilitated the rise and fall of an American corporate giant.
Featuring interviews with prominent insiders from the company, including former employees and auditors, Gibney paints a picture of the organizational culture present at Enron at the time; how executives viewed themselves, their role, and the company. He identifies how Enron deceived not only its shareholders and customers, but at times even its own employees in its scheme of corporate greed. From shell companies and shady accounting practices, to the boys club and the personal motivations driving the executives’ decisions, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is a fascinating look at corporate America and a case study in white collar crime and the important role controls play in the business environment.
Similarly to Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Inside Job takes a look behind the curtain at prominent bankers, economists, and policy makers and how their actions (or lack thereof) lead to the collapse of the world economy as a whole.
Ferguson uncovers hidden connections between Ivy League schools, international banks, central banks & government, and even textbook authors. That is, if you’re like me and have taken or are currently taking Financial Markets, Banking, and the Macro-Economy here at BCIT you’ll notice that your textbook author, Frederic Mishkin, is in fact featured and interviewed in the documentary for his rosy assessment of Iceland’s central bank before its spectacular collapse in 2008.
Inside Job takes a seemingly complex financial crisis and illustrates it in a rational and understandable way without undermining the details or important facts of the case. In doing so, the documentary strips the banking industry of its power of convolution, showing the world how misguided its actions really were. Inside Job directs our attention to the writing on the wall and points a finger at everyone who willfully ignored it.
If you take an accounting, finance, business ethics, or even business law course, there’s a strong chance you’ll discus the financial crisis and the story of Enron in some capacity. These documentaries will leave you well equipped to not just understand but engage in the discussion and relate the topics to the world around you.