x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

No fall-out on Klein's disaster-capitalism adaptation, says director

Despite early disagreements about how to proceed, Klein was part of the project from beginning to end

Recent reports that the author and activist Naomi Klein had disowned the film adaptation of her book, The Shock Doctrine, are false, one of its directors has said. The "disaster capitalism" documentary, which was directed by Mat Whitecross and Michael Winterbottom, argues that western politicians have exploited crises around the world - including natural and man-made disasters - to promote free-market policies.

In recent months it has been claimed that the Canadian author asked to have her name removed from the film's credits, after serious differences arose between her and the British directors. Klein did not attend the film's premiere at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year and, in August, told The Independent that plans for her to write and direct the film had fallen through because they had "different ideas about how to tell this story and build the argument". She added: "This is Michael's adaptation of my book. I didn't want there to be any confusion about that."

"The point is, she hasn't disowned the film," said Whitecross, who was presenting The Shock Doctrine at MEIFF. "You can see her name is on it and she was heavily involved in it right until the end." Klein co-wrote the film's script with Winterbottom and Whitecross, much of which was taken directly from her 2007 book. However, Whitecross did admit to an early disagreement about how the film should be made. "Initially, she talked about a film that was mostly comprised of interviews - a form of investigative journalism. But Michael and I decided that we wanted to do it using mainly archive footage," Whitecross said.

The film does include interviews and several excerpts from speeches made by Klein over the last year. The author chose not to narrate, however. That role was taken by the British actor Kieran O'Brien. "I went to Argentina and Chile with Naomi and did some of the interviews you see in the film," said Whitecross. "Michael did the same thing in Canada. We kept on giving her versions of the film, right up until the last minute. "

The Shock Doctrine charts the spread of the economist Milton Friedman's economic beliefs in both the West, promoted by the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and the developing world, by dictators including Chile's Augusto Pinochet. It investigates cases where economic deregulation and privatisation of industries was imposed swiftly, like in Chile, Argentina, Russia and Iraq, and argues that such economic "shock therapy" can have devastating consequences. As well as adapting Klein's book, the filmmakers decided to extend the author's theory, by also including analysis of the global financial crisis in the film.

"It's only been in the last year that people have started talking about these things again and saying that maybe there's another way we can run the world," Whitecross added. "For a long time we were told it was the end of history and there were no other ways of economies and societies functioning. Economics and politics should not only be the privilege of a select few. These ideas are intelligible. For so many years, people have been shut out and told that economics is a science, but hopefully those days are coming to an end.

"We have come in for a lot of criticism. The one thing we were expecting was for it to be dismissed as leftist conspiracy theory, but Naomi is very clear in the book that there is nothing conspiratorial about the way that free-market capitalism was pushed out to the world, because Milton Freeman lays it all out in his books. One of the most disappointing things about the reception was that people have tried to gossip about whether we all got on, rather than what the film and the book was about."