This year’s International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), the world’s largest documentary film festival, saw the premiere of the documentary The Forum. As the first filmmaker to be granted behind-the-scenes access, Marcus Vetter gives us insight into the organization behind the annual meetings of the World Economic Forum. This yearly conference brings together world leaders to discuss global, regional and industry agendas under the Forum’s mission to ‘improve the state of the world’. The conference has always been seen as a gathering of world’s elites and often been criticized for solely benefiting the wealthy and powerful in a world of growing inequality and ecological problems.
What does this mean?
Given that global elites are, more than ever, a target of criticism, the timing of the documentary is not surprising. In times of high inequality and fears of a billionaires backlash, the annual meeting is under heightened scrutiny and providing transparency into the dialogue in Davos is a way to give the WEF more legitimacy. This is exemplified by the efforts of the head of the WEF, 81 years old prof Klaus Schwab, to engage the youth, in the organization of the WEF and by inviting Greta Thunberg. Moreover, the documentary also follows a Greenpeace activist in her efforts to talk to those who have the biggest impact on our environment, such as representatives of big oil and Jair Bolsonaro who is considered a threat to the Amazon.
The documentary does not take a stance as to whether the WEF succeeds in contributing to a better world or whether it is only supporting the status quo. The Forum instead shows us how difficult it is tofacilitate a truly global and multi-stakeholder dialogue. For now, the annual WEF meeting in Switzerland is still the main and most prominent platform facilitating such a dialogue. However, The New Economy Forum, a Chinese version of the WEF is rapidly growing and it was organized for a second time this year in Beijing, something that also shows how the current world order is shifting to the East.