Review: Alex Winters’ doc ‘The Panama Papers’ details epic journalism


Actor and director Alex Winter’s documentary “The Panama Papers” is a methodical exploration of the massive journalistic endeavor that went into publishing leaked documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. The release revealed the offshore banking practices and tax evasion of world leaders and other public figures.

Winter dives into the reporting details, carefully following the story from a whistleblower’s first messages to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung through the yearlong process of combing through data, performed by an international team of 376 investigative reporters. The film focuses on how this all got done — in secret — but the full scope and consequences of the fraudulent activity periodically land. On-screen text informs viewers that the U.S. has lost nearly $277 billion due to tax avoidance by the wealthy, further widening the gap in income inequality.

By the time Winter’s informative film reaches the trifecta of Donald Trump (whose name appeared in the documents over 3,000 times), Paul Manafort and Steven Mnuchin, it all seems frustratingly futile. But Winter points out that the publishing of these documents was a success — at a cost. Protests erupted, investigations were opened and heads of state were deposed, but at least one journalist was killed (Maltese investigative reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia). “The Panama Papers” serves as a reminder of the important work reporters do in fighting abuses of power and the way that work is evolving in an increasingly fractured global landscape.



‘The Panama Papers’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Playing: Starts Friday, Laemmle Pasadena


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