“Fail State” review

By Bruce Bouchard

“Fail State” is a high-end, seriously endowed, uber-professional product that could easily be on Prime Time. It has had a prior life at 10 film festivals, a sleek piece of brilliant, carefully and thoroughly researched documentary filmmaking — this film is first-rate and is a gut punch.  The subject is the corrupt private “college” marketplace — hundreds of them: DeVry, Phoenix, Everest (get it?), Westwood, Corinthian and on and on (did I forget Trump University?) where the CEOs are paid millions and the predatory culture destroys thousands of lives. 


Recruitment is predatory (lies upon lies delivered by an oleaginous sales technique called “the pain funnel”) and could well be the subject of a Hollywood Indie about a boiler room gone mad. 

While lobbyists proliferate, Congress deregulates, complicity propagates and mostly lower-income families and students suffer, the boiler rooms churn on, promising a life that most families could never hope for their children, the majority of whom come from lower economic strata.

The lure of the unattainable makes these folks easy prey for these “salespeople” who, like David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross,” are selling plots of land that don’t exist.

Isn’t it ironic that the completely unqualified hack Betsy DeVos was our secretary of education (her family donated millions to Republicans) and reported to Trump (remember — he settled for $25,000,000 in the matter of his fraudulent “university”)? They dismantled the regulations imposed by Obama on private college predatory practices, and these schools thrive once again. 

President Biden has promised to solve this grotesque parody of “higher education.” What a cynical world we have lived in the past half-a-decade. Depressing. The pain is real and the stories are horrifying. The filmmaking on every level is magnificent. “Fail State” (94 minutes) is available for rent on Amazon and YouTube.

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