The One Percent

The one Percent is not your average liberal screed against the wealthy.

Many films have previously examined the vast (and still growing) disparity in wealth between the one percent and the rest of America, but they too often approach a repellent Michael Moore preachiness that tends to dillute their most important point: no great democracy has ever before survived such monetary disparity.

The One Percent differs from this lecture approach. The documentary was lensed by 27 year old Jamie Johnson, NYU film school grad and auteur of an Emmy nominated 2003 HBO documentary, Born Rich. He is also, just incidentally, the heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune.

So though the film sometimes suffers from Johnson’s wide-eyed youthful naïvety, it is worth your while because of the direct access Johnson has to the unbelievably rich; while Johnson dives into what it means to be the working poor in America, he has a much better handle on what it means to be obscenely wealthy, as the interviews with some of America’s leading (and über rich) power brokers – Robert Reich, Adnan Khashoggi, Bill Gates Sr., and Steve Forbes – show.

Johnson’s interviews with his contemporaries, some of whom prefer to live far simpler lives than their elders, are equally telling:

Nicole Buffett, granddaughter of billionaire Warren Buffet, explains to us how the Seer of Omaha disowned her for simply participating in Johnson’s film;

The wealth Italian noble, Cody Franchetti, happily admits his enjoyment in his wealth, revels in the fact he did not need to earn it, and takes sublime pleasure in being better than everyone else;

Closer to home Kinkos founder, Paul Orfalea, baldly asserts he will only give money to people whom he felt are trying to better themselves, whether it be by selling apples or pencils or…

The One Percent picks up where Born Rich left off. We are witness to the frank thoughts and lives of those who own more than half of all the wealth in this country. Though the film is uneven — it does lack a cohesive point of view — the rare look into the minds of the one percent truly confirms the economic gap in this country has not only widened, it will continue to do so; that the majority of wealth — and its control — will not only remain in but a few (privileged by divine right) hands, it will soon become even more concentrated therein. That’s impossible to ignore. 1

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  1. I will be interested to see if Johnson films a third movie. If so will he demonstrate a more mature sensibility, or will the film reflect an individual finally at peace with the great wealth bestowed on him at birth? Or will he have become truly radicalized?

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