Movies

The Laundromat puts Panama Papers back in spotlight

VENICE: A holiday tragedy sends Meryl Streep's character Ellen Martin on a puzzling probe of ambiguous financial dealings in Steven Soderbergh's The Laundromat, a drama based on the massive leak of offshore financial data known as the Panama Papers.

With a cast including Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas, the film - now streaming on Netflix - seeks to explain the debacle via lessons from the characters' personal stories. The so-called Panama Papers, consisting of millions of leaked documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca in April 2016, provoked a global scandal after revealing how the rich and powerful used offshore corporations to evade taxes.

Speaking directly to viewers, Oldman and Banderas portray lawyers Jurgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca respectively. They quirkily explain the world of shell companies and offshore accounts.

Streep told a news conference at last month's Venice Film Festival: "We are living in a moment where the news cycle is racing and we are racing to keep up with current events, and this is an entertaining, flash, funny way of telling a very, very dark black-hearted joke, a joke that is being played on all of us.

"It is a crime not without victims and many of them are journalists," she added, citing Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was murdered while investigating corruption.

Soderbergh said he took inspiration from the 1964 film Dr Strangelove as he and writer Scott Z. Burns looked at how to present "a complex subject in a way that would be memorable".

"We decided that a dark comedy had the best possible chance of remaining in the minds of viewers and also gave us the opportunity to use the complexity of these kind of financial activities almost as a joke, almost as the set-up for a punchline," he said.

"It is a troubling time but speaking about it is the beginning, people have been speaking about it for quite a while, but on occasion, a piece of entertainment can be a conversation starter and get people wondering, 'In my everyday life, how am I participating in this?'" - REUTERS

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