Review of The Panana Papers
We live in a world of “fake news,” of news stories being buried by Facebook’s algorithm, of journalists being assassinated for attempting to uncover injustices.
In this same world the richest 1 percent own 45 percent of the world’s wealth.
The Panama Papers, the largest leak of documents in history, shook up the world and its institutions of power and government in ways that could not have been foreseen. German journalist Bastian Obermayer from the newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung received over 40 years of data and 11.5 million files that exposed the offshore holdings of world political leaders, drug traffickers, billionaires, celebrities, among many others; this information was created by the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.
The names linked to the Panama Papers include: Argentinian soccer-player Lionel Messi, former United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron, Argentinian president Mauricio Macri, and former Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson.
In his documentary, The Panama Papers (Los Panama papers), Alex Winters gives us an in-depth look into how more than 300 journalists around the world uncovered one of the most shocking global financial scandals.
Throughout the Laura Poitras (Citizenfour, Risk) co-produced film we hear the voice of John Doe (as portrayed by Elijah Wood), the Panama Papers whistleblower, reciting his manifesto; along with the images of slums alongside wealthy suburban neighborhoods, they create one of the most powerful elements of the film. The film demands that its audience really look at and engage with how money is distributed around the world.
On top of this, the true north star of this documentary is the heroic, intense and intensive work that journalists do; and the risks that they take in exposing people in power. The film conveys a sense of urgency and that journalists are willing to sacrifice anything especially when matters of truth and justice are at stake. Whether you are Maltese journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia whose work was pivotal in revealing sensitive information on Maltese politicians in relation to the Panama Papers, which led to her assassination on October 2017. Or if you are Rita Vásquez from the Panamanian newspaper, La Prensa, who was literally called a traitor. However, it is because of their relentless labor and willingness to collaborate that the documentary packs a punch; the journalists who worked on the Panama Papers were working towards the greater good.
In the end, the documentary allows us to really understand the work that goes into significant and world-changing news. “Now, is the time for the real action,” this final quote from John Doe reminds us that working towards truth and transparency is never done, it just keeps going.