documents an American failure in ex-Soviet state
By Michael Wilmington
Published July 16,
"Power Trip," opening Friday for a week run at
Facets, is cinema journalism on a deeply troubling subject: director
Paul Devlin's ("SlamNation") disturbing, yet weirdly entertaining
tale of the lights going out in Georgia. That's not our Georgia, but
the country that was part of the old Soviet Union and the birthplace
of late dictator Joseph Stalin, and today a land where the crumbling
economic and social superstructure of part of the old Soviet Union
Devlin's focus is on the horrendous
difficulties of AES Corp., an American electric power giant that has
taken over the country's power supply--but can't get things to run
properly. The plants work fine, but most of their customers (90
percent at one point) won't or can't pay their bills, since AES
charges a fee far above the old average customer rate and since its
most powerful and affluent customers--such as industry and the
Army--refuse to pay.
With the company unable to make money,
with the whole social and political structure of Georgia shredding
into corruption and gangsterism and with an international power
crisis triggered by the collapse of Enron Corp., what we witness is
steadily mounting catastrophe. We see it mostly though the eyes of
Devlin's school friend, Piers Lewis, a British-born, project
director sent to Georgia to figure out a better collections system
(which he briefly does).
The country we see here is in
horrible shape, awash in crime and a failing economy--and the
well-intentioned but futile efforts by companies like AES to bring
the benefits of enlightened capitalism seem to be failing
Devlin shows all this with guerrilla-style camera-work
and lively editing that keeps his story hurtling along. "Power
Trip," winner of several international documentary prizes, gives us
the kind of news we often get only from good indie
documentaries--and it's a story all of us should know. (In English
and Georgian, with English subtitles.) Running time: 1:26. No MPAA
rating: parents cautioned for some language.
Facets is at 1517 W.
Fullerton Ave. Call 773-281-9075 or visit www.facets.org.
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