Encirclement: Neo-Liberalism Ensnares Democracy

Encirclement: Neo-Liberalism Ensnares Democracy

Release date:


Running time:

160 minutes


Available on DVD

Closed Captioned:


Availability in North America:

Available in Canada

Outside North America? Click here for availability information.

  • Audience level:
  • Elementary School
  • Middle School
  • High School
  • Adult
  • General

French with English or Spanish subtitles

Drawing upon the thinking and analyses of renowned intellectuals, Encirclement sketches a portrait of neo-liberal ideology and examines the various mechanisms used to impose its dictates throughout the world.

Neo-liberalism’s one-size-fits-all dogmas are well known: deregulation, reducing the role of the State, privatization, limiting inflation rather than unemployment–in other words, depoliticizing the economy and putting it into the hands of the financial class. These dogmas are gradually settling into our consciousness because they’re being broadcast across a vast and pervasive network of propaganda. In fact, beginning with the founding in 1947 of the Mont Pèlerin Society, neo-liberal think tanks financed by multinational companies and big money have propagated neo-liberal ideas in universities, in the media, and in governments.

This ideology, convinced of its historical and scientific validity–as proven, in particular, by the fall of the Soviet Union–has intoxicated all governments, left and right alike. In fact, since the end of the Cold War, the rate of neo-liberal reforms has increased dramatically. Often imposed with force, either through the structural adjustment plans of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, under the pressure of financial markets and multinationals, or even by outright war, the neo-liberal doctrine has now reached every corner of the planet.

But behind the ideological smokescreen, behind the neat concepts of natural order and the harmony of interests in a free market, beyond the panacea of the "invisible hand," what is really going on?

Richard Brouillette spent 12 years carefully researching and constructing Encirclement, structuring it in two major sections with 10 chapters. When it premièred at the Berlinale Forum in 2009, Claudia Lenssen (die Tageszeitung) described as “the most fact-based thriller in the Berlinale Forum.”

“The film refrains from any propaganda, emotionally or didactic hankering after effects—Brouillette succeeds in remaining purely documentary. The film achieves its particular depth and integrity not least by giving equal time on the podium to some of the most eloquent representatives of Neo-Liberlaism and Libertarianism (Martin Masse, Jean-Luc Migué, Filip Palda, Donald J. Boudreaux)—hence, the viewer witnesses an undistorted and fair discourse on a high academic level.”    – Joscha Bach, Vanity Fair

Part One: Profile of Neo-Liberal Ideology
1 - Introduction
2 - Origins
3 - At the Core of the Neo-Liberal Network–Think Tanks
4 - Brief Letter of Anthology–Libertarianism and the Theory of Public Choice
5 - Critiques
Part Two: The Encirclement of Thought and Democracy by Neo-Liberalism
6 - Propaganda and Indoctrination–Education
7 - Propaganda and Indoctrination–The Media
8 - Neo-Liberalism or Neo-Colonialism? Strong Arm Tactics of the Financial Markets
9 - Neo-Liberalism or Neo-Colonialism? Strong Arm Tactics of the Bretton Woods Institutions, or the Washington Consensus
10 - Neo-Liberalism or Neo-Colonialism? Strong Arm Tactics of Military Humansim, or "War is Peace"

Robert and Frances Flaherty Grand Prize, Yamagata IDFF 2009
Grand Prize La Poste Suisse of the international jury, Visions du réel 2009
Johnnie Walker Audience Award for Best Feature Film, IndieLisboa 2009
Pierre & Yolande Perrault Award for Best 1st or 2nd documentary, RVCQ 2009
La Vague Award for Best documentary (ex aequo), FICFA 2009
Special Jury Mention for the Amnesty International Award, IndieLisboa 2009

Official selection, Berlinale - Forum section (Berlin, Germany), 2009
Official selection, Visions du réel (Nyon, Switzerland), 2009
Official selection, Yamagata IDFF (Yamagata, Japan), 2009
Official selection, Viennale (Vienna, Austria), 2009
Official selection, Hot Docs (Toronto, Canada), 2009
Official selection, BAFICI (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 2009
Official selection, IndieLisboa (Lisbon, Portugal), 2009
Official selection, IFF Bratislava (Bratislava, Slovakia), 2009
Official selection, Mostra Internacional de Cinema (São Paulo, Brazil), 2009
Official selection, Ghent Film Festival (Ghent, Belgium), 2009
Official selection, CPH:DOX (Copenhagen, Denmark), 2009
Official selection, Documenta Madrid (Madrid, Spain), 2009
Official selection, Oslo Internasjonale Film Festival (Oslo, Norway), 2009
Official selection, Jihlava IDFF (Jihlava, Czech Republic), 2009
Official selection, Vancouver International Film Festival (Vancouver, Canada), 2009
Official selection, Festival do Rio (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 2009
Official selection, Leeds International Film Festival (Leeds, UK), 2009
Official selection, Cork Film Festival (Cork, Ireland), 2009
Official selection, Spokane International Film Festival (Spokane, USA), 2010
Official selection, Französischen Filmtagen (Tübingen-Stuttgart, Germany), 2009
Official selection, This Human World (Vienna, Austria), 2009
Official selection, À nous de voir (Oullins, France), 2009
Official selection, FCIU (Montevideo, Uruguay), 2009
Official selection, FICFA (Moncton, Canada), 2009
Official selection, Festival O.F.N.I. (Poithiers, France), 2009
Official selection, Festival de cinéma des trois Amériques (Québec, Canada), 2009
Official selection, Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois, 2009
Official selection, Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal, 2008

Director's statement:

As with my previous documentary, Trop c'est assez, this film arose from dissidence.

At first, it was a revolt against the defeat of thought, against the depreciation of life with thought. The conversion of the educational system into a vocational-training system was a primary reason, as was the advent of a society where information reigned, while the development of actual knowledge was outmoded. A picture guided me, an etching by Francisco Goya entitled, "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters", from the series, Los Caprichos.

Then an editorial by Ignacio Ramonet, "La pensée unique", appeared in the January, 1995, edition of Le Monde Diplomatique. It gradually wove its way through my mind, and the object of my revolt slowly changed, resting instead on the sclerosis of political thought, given that everything is political. Under siege by dogmatic ideology, pluralist political thought had mutated into a single scheme to strip the State of its powers and hand them over to market interests that supposedly knew how to do everything better.

From being merely dominant, the reasoning of the propertied masters had become crushing and irrefragable. Relayed via a tentacular network of propaganda and indoctrination that exploited all conceivable arenas, this pensée unique went unimpeded, especially since the fall of the USSR, and so naturally acquired the force of law. Following the collapse of the Communist régimes, Francis Fukuyama, former deputy director of the U.S. State Department's strategic cell, went as far as announcing "the end of History", because according to him Man had reached the pinnacle of glory: one could never aspire to a more serene happiness than that of living in a representative democracy governed by liberalism; nothing could be more perfect than the undivided reign of the market.

Also, a phenomenal quantity of "experts", "consultants", "specialists", journalists and private-sector managers got zealously involved in a whirlwind of mesmerizing proselytism that engulfed any attempted contestation in its path. Even so-called leftist political parties, unionists and academics across the board yielded to this grand movement of intellectual assimilation, which demanded ever less State and ever more market, more competiveness. And woe to anyone who dared contradict them! No one even deigned to listen, immediately rejecting with weighty authority any argument that might discredit established economic logic, ridiculing such poor fools with the supreme insults reserved for heretics: mindless idealists, blinkered Stalinists, unrealistic leftists, nostalgic or naive hippies, dangerous dreamers, frustrated Luddites, dinosaurs, etc.

That's why I decided to make a film not on the globalization of the economy - many had already been made - but on the globalization of a system of thought. A film about mind control, brainwashing, ideological conformism; about the omnipresent irrefutability of a new monotheism, with its engraved commandments, burning bushes and golden calves.

As in my previous film, I decided to express this revolt in speech. Strong, straightforward, rigorous, informed speech, free to express itself at length to complete its ideas. There was no question of me restricting this speech or forcing it to conform to television conventions, using fast-paced editing to make it artificially dynamic, giving it a deceptive air of objectivity, or eluding complex topics. Nor did I want to use too much "visual lubricant" - archival or illustrative images that would have compromised the film's cohesiveness and tainted the participants' interventions. I inserted these only when absolutely necessary. I felt it was crucial that the incisive, captivating speech of these eminent thinkers fill the screen, and that the audience fall sway to the fascination of listening, as I had.

I deliberately set out to develop a filmic thesis that was overtly unique, in both form and content. Also, my film proceeds from several aesthetic biases. For example, it was shot in 16mm black-and-white film at a time when people advocate only digital video. Why? Simply because I find it beautiful. And because black-and-white seems to impart a kind of timelessness to the film. And finally, I prefer to confine myself to the film discipline that demands more conciseness and precision, since its cost requires shooting less and ensuring that the essential is said in 11 minutes (the duration of a reel).

On the other hand, the idea of using voiceover put me off. I decided to use intertitles instead. These allow me to structure the film, provide supplementary explanations not mentioned by the interviewees, take a stand personally and open the door to a second, more emotional level of meaning through music. Music that, while rich and audacious, doesn't hinder the reading of the texts.

Finally, I decided not to identify my subjects during the film, as is usually done in television. People have reproached me for this, but I held firm because this relative anonymity focuses the viewer's attention on the messages, not the messengers.

Since I got the initial idea, it has taken me almost twelve years to finish this film. True, I'm a rather scattered person, a polymath who likes to get involved in all kinds of causes. But I also like to take time to evolve with a project in order to deepen it. The fantastic thing is that now, twelve years later, the relevance of Encirclement is more burning than ever. The current world economic crisis is the direct result of the neoliberal reforms fuelled by free-market ideology and laissez-faire practices. But unfortunately, I still don't believe the death knell has tolled. The present monetary and fiscal system inherited from Nixon is nowhere near being overhauled and as things stand I don't imagine the plethora of privatizations and deregulation that have taken place worldwide will be reversed. On the contrary, we keep privatizing profitable enterprises, nationalizing businesses that generate losses and calling for more free trade.

I hope my film will at least be able to contribute, however humbly, to a broader questioning of the foundations of this deleterious ideology, and to making it recede.

Bottom Border

purchase online

1. Select Site Type

Definition of Institutions use

Purchase at our INSTITUTION level price if you are from a...

  • University / College
  • School board / district
  • Government agency
  • Business or association

Note: Price does not include Inter-library loan rights

Please contact us if you have difficulty selecting a price level.

2: Select Format:

License Inquiries

Click here to request licenses for: rental and exhibition, streaming, duplication or other inquiries.

Click here for ORDER inquiries outside of North America