The Man who broke Britain is a full-length drama film made by the BBC in 2004. The film was written by Simon Finch and Gabriel Range, produced by the former and directed by the latter. It is shot in documentary-style - very convincingly so - and is part of their "What if..." series of programmes, in which the BBC highlight potential problems, disasters and other current affairs issues which could conceivably impact our lives.
In this particular programme, the topic is the global and local economy. The whole concept of the film hinges on the concept of financial derivatives - one of the things that caused Enron to eventually bite the dust.
"Financial derivatives" is a bit of an obscure term for the layman. As the film explains it: "Two parties take out a contract, and they agree they will exchange moneys based on the change in value of that asset. It moves up or moves down. One of them wins, one of them loses, it's as simple as that"
Or, as a financial website chooses to put it:
"Derivatives are financial securities whose value is derived from another "underlying" financial security. Options, futures, swaps, swaptions and structured notes are all examples of derivative securities. Derivatives can be used hedging, protecting against financial risk, or can be used to speculate on the movement of commodity or security prices, interest rates or the levels of financial indices. The valuation of derivatives makes use of the statistical mathematics of uncertainty, which is very complex." (kamps.org/g/?pctf)
This documentary (or mockumentary, rather, considering it is set in the beginning of 2005) is extremely convincingly shot. The actors, the story-line, the way it is produced, everything seems extraordinarily well thought through and the characters in the film are most believable. The filmmakers have also managed to deftly include footage of both the British prime minister Tony Blair, and US president George W. Bush, combined with real news footage and lots of convincing stock footage, for further realism.
While painting a bleak picture of the world, basically leading through a global financial collapse, not unlike the depression of the late 1920s and 1930s, the programme raises a series of points for discussion.
In the film, a rogue financial derivative trader has foiled the system, and has included a phrase in contracts that makes the banks extremely vulnerable to certain conditions - in this case, if the oil price rises to extreme levels. Of course, the trader is in cahoot with terrorist organisations, who use violent acts of terrorism to drive the price of oil up. When it reaches the magical limit, a major bank topples, and takes a large portion of other financial institutions with it.
While mostly an exercise in "what if", the film raises a series of important questions about the ethical aspects of banking and financial institutions. It is easy to imagine this film being used as a basis for discussion in ethics- and perhaps also in macro-economics classes.
Starring Mansour Abou Chahine, Katherine Igoe, Mark Hyde, George Potts, Will Ashcroft, Kirsty Dillon, Roger Barclay, Jeremy Booth, Nigel Williams, Caroline Lintott, Amani Zain, Roger Parrot, Aziz Al Naib.
Narrated by Tim Pigott-Smith, Music by Samuel Sim, Director of Photography: John Halliday, Produced by Lucy Hetherington and Leanne Klein.