The nightmare of global capitalism and housing come into focus in Push

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      A documentary by Fredrik Gertten. In English, Spanish, German, and Korean, with English subtitles. Rating unavailable

      There was a time when the captains of industry put limits on how hard to grind the working class, since they knew they still needed someone to buy their damn products.

      How quaint that seems now, in a world with precious little industry, and not even that many actual captains running anything.

      These days, the Benjamins call most of the shots—that’s why they call it capitalism—as laid out in Push, an unusually clear-headed documentary that sticks to one financial subject: real estate.

      It follows the globe-trotting adventures of Ottawa’s Leilani Farha, who works for the United Nations as a Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing. The idea of adequate shelter as a basic human right, like decent health care, hovers in the background of her visits to troubled housing estates in Canada, Chile, the U.K., Korea, and elsewhere.

      Supposedly socialist Sweden is where she runs into renters battling absentee landlords from Blackstone, a multinational, based in the U.S., that specializes in running down older complexes in urban areas, driving out existing tenants, jacking up rents, and flipping the properties for quick profit.

      In South Korea, developers hire thugs to beat people who resist giving up cheap suburban land.

      And in London, foreign investors park their money in choice neighbourhoods and leave homes empty to accrue value (and clean cash) while quietly decimating whole communities.

      The disastrous Grenfell Tower fire is viewed by Farha—and by Swedish director Fredrik Gertten (Bikes vs Cars)—as a physical manifestation of a ramped-up war on the poor. And the struggle to rehouse survivors displaced by such calamities is compounded by governments investing public pensions in the same companies shoving people out of affordable homes.

      That is, in fact, the push this sharp-eyed movie’s vague title refers to. In the end, it wonders when, how, and if people will ever push back.