Cockburns expose the "American Casino" economy

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A Q and A audio interview with co-producers Leslie and Andrew Cockburn on their remarkable new documentary, “American Casino,” opening Friday (Aug. 21) at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco for a two week run.

Interview with Andrew and Leslie Cockburn by SFBG

By Bruce B. Brugmann

Leslie Cockburn, the widely respected investigative reporter and filmmaker, began work on “American Casino” in January 2008 when she and her husband Andrew recognized the signs of an emerging financial collapse from the subprime meltdown.

They spent the next 12 months filming the terrible effect of the accelerating disaster and have produced in my view one of the very best accounts of how and why $12 million trillion dollars vanished in the American Casino.

The reason the film is so good is because the Cockburn team were working with great freedom as independent filmmakers and they are both superb reporters who know how to put an investigative story together clearly and with impact and authority. You really don’t feel you understand the collapse until you’ve seen this documentary.

Leslie, who was born and raised in San Francisco, was among the first women to graduate from Yale. She went on to produce many award-winning stories for PBS, CBS and ABC news, including “From the Killing Fields” for the ABC News documentary show Peter Jennings Reports. She conceived and co-produced “The Peacemaker,” a thriller starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman about a planned terrorist attack on New York City.

Andrew is a member of the famous Cockburn journalism family that count father Claud, two brothers Patrick and Alex, two nieces and Leslie. He has produced journalism in many forms including books, newspaper and magazine articles and “The Red Army,” a 198l film on the Russian military that debunked the widely held opinion at that time that the Russian military machine was equal to the U.S. military. In l998, he and brother Patrick published the book, “Out of the Ashes, the Resurrection of Saddam Hussein.” When Hussein found out about the book, he decreed that anyone caught selling it would be hanged. In l987, Andrew and Leslie began their collaboration by producing documentaries for PBS Frontline.

Andrew claims he is not shocked by the financial disasters he researched in “American Casino.” His father covered the l929 Crash as a correspondent for the London Times and Andrew grew up listening to the stories.

“American Casino” opens Friday night with a showing at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. at the Roxie Theater, 3117 16th st., followed by Q and A sessions by Leslie and Claud. The show plays Saturday night at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. with Q and A sessions. The move runs for the next two weeks. The Q and A sessions will be a special treat, as the audio interview above demonstrates.