2009 | Color | HD video | 20:00
Memory Leak is a meditation on the waning days of a decade from hell, an accounting of how we got there and where we ended up. “I’m not a big fan of the way this has all turned out”, sputters Alan Greenspan in the film’s opening moment. The epic 2003 confrontation between then-Congressman Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an avowed Socialist, and Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, an Ayn Rand Republican, sets the stage for the visual cause-and-effect to follow.
The film uses three locations to provide a context for the 2008 Presidential election and the economic meltdown that preceded the voting: Palm Beach County, Florida, notorious for its outsized role in the outcome of the 2000 Presidential race; North Carolina, representative of the “new” South, a recently Republican red state turned Democratic blue by Obama; and Chicago, Illinois, the middle-American hometown of candidate Barack Obama.
As life at street level passes by, two voices articulate contrasting narratives of early 21st century America: the unvarnished truth-telling of now-Senator Bernie Sanders and the preternaturally calm, smooth-jazz intonations of the obfuscating Alan Greenspan, the longtime Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank. Along the way---from upscale malls to Wal-Mart, from palatial estates to ramshackle bungalows, from the burnished facades of downtown Palm Beach to the crumbling infrastructure of lower-middle class neighborhoods in Florida and North Carolina---we are assured again and again by the unflappable Greenspan that all is well, even as the film ends with a tour of abandoned developments and foreclosed properties. “All in all, the sub-prime problem is indeed a derivative of the housing boom generally, which in turn is the result of very strong global forces over which neither the American central bank or any other central bank had any particular control,” says Greenspan towards the end of the film in a statement from an interview late in 2007. “I have always been a supporter of broadening the issue of mortgage markets so that lots of people could actually, uh, become homeowners. There is a risk in that, but the risks are small relative to the advantages we get”, he continues, begging the question: exactly who did he mean by “we”?