USA 2008 Economic Collapse

Lehman Brother’s collapse, the “watershed moment” in the ongoing “great recession” – contextualizing Joshua Tree

September 2008 – headlines rock both sides of the Atlantic: Lehman Brothers, once among Wall Street’s largest banks, the 158 year old institution suddenly collapsed dragging the world down into economic oblivion (references below). Still in deep crisis, the world is just now starting to try to come to grips with what happened, how it could happen, and the devastating worldwide long-term consequences.

It is precisely in this wrenching world, in this vital discussion and ongoing struggle that the film Joshua Tree participates and elucidates. Joshua Tree is framed by the Lehman collapse —the defining moment of our times.

Joshua Tree: social criticism, crushing metaphor, political fable

Joshua Tree is not an easy film: it is the opposite of escapism. It is a multilayered story and a hard-hitting cultural and political critique of today’s USA and is rife with global implications and interest: it is timely, probing, crucial and —and like our times— unsettling.

Joshua Tree is not simply about economic collapse. It is about broad collapses —of shared dreams, commonly-held beliefs, and mutual trust between people. Joshua Tree asks, “how could this happen..? in the richest, most powerful country the world has ever known..” Are we at the end of the “American dream”? has it turned to nightmare? Joshua Tree relentlessly digs deeply into American culture and the American family searching for answers.

How many times do we see a film taking up the struggle of the hearts, economics and every-day behaviors of the American middle class family? How often do we see a direct comparison of differing types of family cultures? When will we start paying attention to the monumental lives, and fascinating and important struggles of ordinary people? Joshua Tree provides the all-to-rare opportunity.

Director Cheng uses a stirring and unique film language: a limited camera AND character movement, creating a realistic, cautionary and stark pallet reflecting the pallor of our times. Joshua Tree builds from the often bland, detached, sequestered and formulaic lives typical of today’s USA middle class. As darkness settles in, the curtain is pulled back revealing the unspeakable tragedies lurking just beneath the surface. Such a probing analysis could only come from a uniquely situated “insider/outsider” like Director Cheng.

And Joshua Tree shows a great love of people and for their well-being; or, as the great Spanish Film Director Luis Bunuel (details click here) said of his “Los Olvidados” (details click here) made with a “profound tenderness”.


1 – the watershed moment in the financial crisis…when fear and uncertainty gripped…the world and drove the world economy into the Great Recession. “Five Years Later, Lehman Brothers Fall Still Stings”, National Public Radio, September 11, 2013, read the full article, click here

2 – recalling the defining moment of the credit crunch, leading figures recall the shattering impact of the bank’s collapse on the British financial sector. “Lehman Brothers collapse, five years on: ‘We had almost no control’”, The Guardian, September 12, 2013, read the full article, click here