Documentary - Completed 2010

What is "Risk"?

    • Year of production
    • 2010
    • Genres
    • Documentary
    • Countries
    • CANADA
    • Languages
    • Writer(s)
    • Ed RICHE
    • Producer(s)
    • Kent MARTIN (NFB), Mary SEXTON (Rink Rat Productions Inc.)
    • Synopsis
    • In 2008 large numbers of sub-prime mortgages issued in the United States went into default. This shouldn’t have been surprising to anyone. By their nature subprime mortgages were for borrowers with poor credit. The risk that those mortgages, or some predictable portion of them, would fail had been “bundled”, divided and craftily spread, through new tools of monetary trade, all over the world. (These were famously described by investment guru Warren Buffet as “financial instruments of mass destruction” and include such things as the self explanatory, but difficult to fathom, “credit default swaps”) A small municipality in Norway could, essentially, profit from lending the money to buy houses in Florida or, if the buyers outside Tampa failed to meet their obligations, suffer some, allegedly predictable, losses. The trillions of dollars at risk was a commodity for exchange. But the risk was gravely underestimated, and when, as defaults increased and the underlying value of the properties for which the mortgages had been issued declined, a truly global economic crisis resulted.
      What is “risk?” When was it first conceptualized by man? When was it first quantified and then commodified? How does the human mind weigh comparative risks and why do we so often get it wrong? What strategies have we imagined to minimize our exposure to risks, from communicable disease to declines in the value of our assets?
      “Kild by ∫everall accidents” is a meditation on “risk” an exploration of the concept and how we perceive and respond (rationally and otherwise) to possible perils and real dangers.
      To bring this admittedly abstract notion to the viewer the film will commence with, and continue to revisit and analyse, a dramatic scenario in which a character faces varying risks, some everyday and some extraordinary. As the film progresses it returns to separate incidents in the film and discusses, with experts, the comparative risk the character is in. To further up the dramatic stakes the scene will be presented entirely as a “Point of View”, so that it is the viewer of the film that is in peril.
      As the film moves forward with the deconstruction of the scene it will, primarily through interviews, present a survey of thinking about risk. It hears from figures as diverse as the Nobel laureate who devised Prospect Theory to a workplace health and safety officer. While the film will surely present the history of the concept (its origins are with the first mathematical work on probability, by Pascal and Fermat in the 17th century) it will not move through the subject chronologically. Instead events in the dramatic scenario become a point of departure for discussion. For instance, the appearance of a group of teenage boys in the scene leads to a discussion with an actuary about just how risky are their behaviors. Thus, in turn, leads to a discussion of the neurophysiology of risk perception (for evolutionary reasons teenage boys might not have adequate development in the part of the brain that weighs risk). This is a meditation not a primer, it will pose more questions than it can answer, it will engage and entertain as much as it will illuminate.
      The film takes it title from the ledger of deaths in London for the year 1665.
    • Partners & financing
    • The National Film Board of Canada (NFB)