SYDNEY, Australia – Road rage is nothing new, but bank rage seems to be alive and well in Australia. When a new film “The Bank,” a small budget film written and produced by Robert Connelly, was premiered down under, the audience cheered loudly during a scene when a disgruntled customer holds a bank manager hostage. This reaction startled critics and journalists alike. Not so unrealistic, says Dr. Stephen Juan, an anthropologist who teaches at the University of Sydney. He granted Credit Union Times an interview to explain the social significance behind Australians’ anger against banks. He also explained why credit unions down under produce just the opposite emotions. “The Bank” shows people’s frustrations, said Juan, it’s about the corporatization of the world. Juan described it is as being “about how corporations are becoming so large and powerful that they now coerce governments.” In the movie, math wizard Jim Doyle (played by David Wenham) devises a computer program that will predict the stock market. A multi-national bank’s CEO (played by Anthony LaPaglia) employs Doyle to make a fortune for the bank. But things go wrong. The bank decides to jettison all of its small customers. It forecloses on the loan of Wayne and Di Davis (respectively played by Steve Rogers and Mandy McElhinney) with tragic results. Doyle has to examine his conscience to see if it is moral to continue to help the bank. Juan offered that the audience reacted so strongly to the movie because they perceived the film as mirroring in some ways the situation with Australian banks or at least the way Australian banks are perceived by the general public. Mergers have had big banks eating little banks. They close down local branches and have “squeezed their customers (especially smaller customers) while making record profits for their shareholders. Sometimes these profits are as high as 150% over the previous year,” Juan said. At one time banks were regarded as a friend, part of the community. But this warmth has changed to hostility, Juan said. Juan believes that banks must realize they have a responsibility to their communities and to the people who live there, not just to making a profit. That would go a long way in helping them regain the public’s confidence. Juan said, “Just as a factory should be forbidden to pollute the local environment, a bank should be forbidden to manipulate, exploit, or destroy the local community. There must be corporate responsibility and banks must be good corporate citizens.” When asked if he thought a movie sequel called “Credit Union Rage” was a possibility, Juan emphatically answered, “No. This is because Australian credit unions are controlled by their members and are more closely connected to the communities in which they serve,” he said. Dr. Juan gives about 200 radio, television and print interviews each year. He received his Ph.D. from The University of California in Berkeley. At the moment there is no plan to bring “The Bank” to U.S. audiences. – [email protected]

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