Review by Steve Morrissey (moviesteve.com)
"A fascinating, informative film asking all the right questions"
Here in Brexit Britain we find ourselves in a peculiar situation. In spite of having done pretty well out of Europe, including our various rebates, opt-outs and special deals, fifth richest country in the world and all that, we have suddenly rebelled, storming out of the arrangement in a strop, angry about something that no one can quite articulate – it might be the straightness of bananas or democratic accountability, or something else entirely.
Meanwhile, the political left appear to have given up talking in a language that most people understand (mysterious references to “social issues” really don’t cut it) and the populace seems to see no contradiction in buying arguments about “freedom” and “control” from people who live here but are domiciled for tax purposes elsewhere (Lord Rothermere of the Daily Mail), people who actually live in tax havens (the Barclay brothers of the Daily Telegraph), or in the USA (Rupert Murdoch of News International). And, most notably of all, from people based over here but whose allegiances are over the Atlantic (how UKIP’s Nigel Farage and his paymaster Arron Banks love being photographed with the new US president).
How we got here isn’t the subject of Michael Oswald’s latest film, but The Spider’s Web: Britain’s Second Empire does shed some light on the miasma of weird that has taken hold of the zeitgeist, when, after 40 years of a “free market” experiment that has seen living standards for many stagnate or fall, people seem to be voting for more not less of the same thing and are blaming “globalisation” for policies masterminded and put into effect by their own governments.
By Frederik Obermaier (Author and Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist)
Want to know more about the menace of tax havens and the role of the City of London & Overseas Territories? Then this great film is a must!
By Richard Murphy (Professor of Practice in International Political Economy, University of London)
In 2011 Bick Shaxson shattered the secrecy of the City of London with his book Treasure Islands. Now Michael Oswald has, in effect, turned the story into a film that achieves the same result.
‘The Spiders Web’ lays bare the corruption that led to the UK being at the heart of the world’s tax haven and dirty money network, and explains just how it stays there. Experienced tax justice campaigners, academics and politicians, backed on occasion by an unsupportive cast from the States of Jersey police (watch it and see) make it clear that the UK has become dependent upon corruption for its apparent well-being.
This film is shocking, persuasive, factual and shaming. Watch it and you won’t view bankers, lawyers, accountants or many in our political elite in the same way ever again.
By David Quentin (Tax Barrister - London)
A brilliant film, skillfully deploying the documentary staples of archive footage and expert talking heads to tell its story, which by its nature risks being technical and fragmented, in an accessible and compelling way. The narrative is framed by reference to the evolution of the UK from an imperial to a financial one, but the issues are wider and more immediate: the systemic, structural opacity and corruption at the heart of a world purportedly governed in the interests of respectable business and in accordance with the rule of law.
Review by Descant Deb (http://thebritishblacklist.co.uk)
The Spider’s Web: Britain’s Second Empire is Michael Oswald’s newest revelatory feature documentary – one which is as important to Britain as Ava Du Vernay’s 13th (2016) is to Americans. Both place national history into a disturbing modern context! It parallels Du Vernay’s deduction that in giving up overt slavery, American elites subverted the 13th Constitution of the United States to utilise the judicial system to funnel unpaid prison inmate labour into the business sector, thereby subsidising rising production costs and preserve thelost profits. It also restricted the power of white society’s ‘unwanted elements’ through incarceration.
Spider’s Web exposes similar practices up to a point. It is narrated by actor Andrew Piper and features contributions from leading experts, academics, former insiders (including one financial investigator who went undercover for 10 years!) and campaigners for social justice, to tell our story. Oswald uses stylized b-roll, archive and contemporaneous footage to illustrate their points as they discuss how the irretrievable decline of the British Empire (at its height one of the largest in history) led to an increasing loss of income for the City of London. The City, responsible for the UK’s financial services industry and representing its own interests, was incited to compensate itself by creating a whole new monetary system – the Eurodollar; a new market for a new investment system – the London Euromarket; and a safe, regulation-free zone in which to apply it – so-called ‘secrecy jurisdictions’, otherwise known as tax havens! These jurisdictions have grown over the years to represent trillions of dollars of which, on paper, Britain’s elites benefit from almost half!
(Not the best of reviews, but the comparison film had a budget of $1 million)
By Markus Meinzer (Author of Steueroase Deutschland)
This film tells the fascinating story about the murky world of offshore finance. The connections between its historical roots and today’s impact on the lives of all of us are laid bare in shocking clarity. This film is a must for everyone who tries to make sense of the modern economy and the rise of inequality – it is the best I have seen to date on that subject.