One of the most interesting WTO screenings will be taking place at the Little Theatre, on our very own Capitol Hill. Our Friends at the Bank is a documentary following leaders of the African nation of Uganda, as they apply for a big-ass loan from the World Bank. What makes the film so good is that its politics are subsumed, rather than worn on its sleeve. It also helps that director Peter Chappell had an amazing amount of access to the key players over the course of 18 months.
Everything starts out innocently enough. Uganda needs hundreds of millions of dollars to build roads and infrastructure. The World Bank (the biggest source of loans for developing countries) wants to make sure some of the money goes toward education and health, but Uganda only wants money for the roads. Then things start getting complex. The World Bank doesn't want to fund the military skirmishes in the north, and suddenly everybody's talking about the "debt initiative," and how Uganda can only be part of it if they stabilize their economy by selling their own government-run bank. I have to admit it all gets a bit confusing, but the film ends up being a balanced look at the good and the bad of large-scale bureaucracy. I felt disorientation, anxiety, some nausea, but very few knee-jerks.