Review: the Greedy Lying Bastards want your money

By John Parnell

It’s simple. The greedy lying bastards want your money. 

Tackling climate change will cost certain industries dearly or at least make them undertake serious changes to the way they do business. Nobody likes change.

That’s the premise of filmmaker Craig Rosebraugh‘s latest effort, an unflinching, angry and provocative take on the climate crisis.

Executive produced by Darryl Hannah, Greedy Lying Bastards does a good job of explaining who those people are, how they operate and why they’re wrong.

We hear from professional sceptic Fred Singer, who has systematically denied second-hand smoke, the hole in the ozone layer and of course climate change.

We get some nice looking infographics to chart the connections between the greedy bastards, certain politicians and the web of think tanks that blur the boundaries between funding democracy and buying it out.

Rosebraugh does a great job of presenting these links for what they are. They often sound on the face of it, too vulgar to be true. But he frequently turns to archive footage to turn let the ridiculousness of these links play out in front of your own eyes.

The culmination of this forensic assessment of the denial machine’s accounts is a confrontation with Exxon-Mobil chief Rex Tillerson.

The outcome is unsurprising, no spoiler there, but it serves as excellent end point to his detailing of the Greedy Lying Bastards.

Rosebraugh can at times be his own worst enemy. The subjects he is looking to expose are adept at hanging themselves given enough rope.

DC’s doyen of denial James Inhofe tries to prevent Al Gore responding to questions, Lord Monckton refers to campaigners at the UN climate talks as Hitler Youth and we relive Mitt Romney’s now cringe-inducing joke about Obama stopping the rise of the oceans.

Superstorm Sandy, even if it can’t be linked directly to climate change, did enough to ensure Romney was the real butt of that joke.

Fine balance

Given all that, Rosebraugh’s sarcastic put-downs weaken his own argument and alienate the moderate middle. These are the people that films like Greedy Lying Bastards are aimed at engaging with.

Complaining about getting an answer phone message at Koch Industries‘ because “they’re probably busy taking over the world” doesn’t add much.

More powerful are the testimonies from Americans affected by drought and wildfires. Mainstream news usually presents natural disasters as statistics, XX many homes burned, XX many people displaced, XX many acres of crops failing.

The film puts a face on these, a moderate, believably unbiased face.

Like the look at the deniers, Rosebraugh’s take on the effects of climate change is better coming from those involved than from his heavy-handed voiceover.

The first line of the movie, against the backdrop of images of wildfires and storms is “what if I told you all this is preventable”, which technically, isn’t accurate.

The link between extreme weather has breached the point of statistical significance, but to suggest climate action could prevent wildfires, which in smaller frequencies and scale are actually part of the natural cycle, is not a great start.

Again, Rosebraugh has unnecessarily opened himself up to criticism from deniers.

The fact is that: “what if I told you all this can have its probability reduced back to within the scope of natural variability” is not a sexy line.

But Rosebraugh’s sketch of the current climate debate and the forces that have skewed remains engaging even if you’ve heard much of it before.

For those unfamiliar with the climate debate Greedy Lying Bastards could well de-robe the climate denial machine for what it is.

The danger is that some of the snider commentary might will put off those in the moderate middle and reinforce tired cliches that all environmentalists are also anti-capitalists, socialists, mentalists.

The story is a compelling one that doesn’t need some of the embellishments afforded to it by Rosebraugh. These could alienate a wider audience and appealing only those that agree with the film’s core argument in the first place.

That will do nothing to widen the debate or persuade the narrow-minded. It’s a fine line but the powerful personal testimonies, the ordinariness of the people facing climate aggravated tragedies will serve its purpose.

Rosebraugh makes an unequivocal demonstration of the messy role the Greedy Lying Bastards have in US politics. Whether anyone not already on the scent of the Koch brothers will see the movie is hard to judge.

That would be a great shame, as Rosebraugh has jammed 60 years of climate debate into 92 minutes. Let’s hope cinemas will embrace it and give it a chance at reaching a wider audience.

Chances are the big cinemas stick to the current preference for fairytales with a not-so-original modern twist and moody blockbuster comic book remakes where the superhero talks about their problems.

Those greedy bastards.

Greedy Lying Bastards is out in the USA on March 8 – check here for latest listings

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