On Wednesday night in Wheeler Auditorium, following a screening of “Inequality for All” — the documentary battling against the unbalanced distribution of wealth in America — there was a Q&A session featuring UC Berkeley professor, former secretary of labor and best-selling author Robert Reich, director Jacob Kornbluth and moderator Henry Brady, dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy.
Assisted with questions submitted by audience members at the film’s end, Kornbluth and Reich explained the purpose of the film as well as its production and implications.
Kornbluth described that he has no real economic background and thus wanted to make a movie that people like him could easily understand: “My wife … she hates politics, and she likes this movie, and that’s all I wanted. I wanted to make the film for people that don’t watch the political discussions back and forth … I wanted them to see this one.”
Footage of Reich teaching his “Wealth and Poverty” course was featured throughout the film. Kornbluth revealed that he himself was enrolled in the course and wasn’t initially planning on using it in the film. “The class captured my imagination,” he said. “I was obsessed while making the film with the faces of the kids in the classroom. I wondered what was going to happen to these kids.”Brady began the session with a similar statement on the relevance of the movie’s topic to everyone: “People in this room personify what this movie was about.”
Reich displayed his fondness for Kornbluth several times, describing the experience as the best collaboration he has ever been a part of. “(The movie) has really taken off, and it’s because of Jake and his genius,” Reich said. “You are a remarkable man, and I thank you for that.”
He went on to describe that the only tension between them was trying to decide how much of Reich’s own personal biography was to be featured in the film.
“When I first saw the initial movie, I thought it was too much about my life,” Reich said. “But Jake convinced me … there was an emotional connection that Jake understood and I didn’t.” Kornbluth thought people needed to relate to Reich and trust him in order for the message of the film to reach its biggest potential impact.
The conversation naturally delved into the matters that the film discussed: income inequality and the struggling middle class. Reich admitted he was frustrated while working as secretary of labor under the Clinton administration because this problem was relatively ignored. However, he is optimistic about its recent surge into the public focus: “The issue of inequality has suddenly become something that the president and people in Washington are at least willing to talk about … The issue is now at a point where there is a possibility that it can be tackled. There is not an easy answer, and it can not be tackled right away.”
They focused on the fact that this is a problem for everyone. “I come across wealthy people all the time who are terribly concerned about this,” Reich said. “They understand that the economy depends on a large growing middle class.” One of the main people in the film is an extremely wealthy pillow manufacturer who continuously criticizes the income disparity as well, which Kornbluth explained was intentionally done to show the widespread nature of this problem.
Reich called for people to mobilize and to get energized in order to stir up a change. “Our goal with this film is to in some way educate the public and cause some sort of ruckus,” Reich concluded.