“Maxed Out,” a new documentary examining the proliferation of debt in America, was shown at an advanced screening in Ames Courtroom. Filmmaker James Scurlock and Professor Elizabeth Warren, a leading bankruptcy expert who appears in the documentary, were on hand after the film for a panel discussion.

“Credit cards are transforming middle class America, and James Scurlock is determined to tell the story,” says Warren. “Maxed Out pieces together clips and interviews to tell a tale that startles, and eventually outrages, the viewer.  The film is a reminder that one person with an idea, a camera, a few friends and a lot of perseverance can help change a national conversation.” 

In the film, Scurlock interviews debt collectors, pawnbrokers, people in debt, and experts like Warren to show how the credit industry unfairly targets consumers, wreaking havoc upon the lives of Americans.

“We’re all led to believe that people get into financial trouble because they are irresponsible, but I’ve learned that most people are getting in trouble because the banks and credit card companies are setting their customers up to fail,” said Scurlock. “The more credit they give us, the more credit we need. When we inevitably fall behind, they can charge the huge late fees and the over-limit fees and the stratospheric interest rates that drive their profits.”

To solve the debt problem, Scurlock calls on the government to pass tougher regulation on the credit industry as well as the industry itself to change its practices. Instead of targeting the least responsible consumers, Scurlock argues, lenders should take income into account when offering credit to consumers.

Scurlock is also the author of the book “Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit, and the Era of Predatory Lenders,” which is a companion to the documentary.

Warren has written several books and articles exposing the credit industry, including “All Your Worth: the Lifetime Money Plan” and “The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Fathers and Mothers are Going Broke.”

The screening is sponsored by the Consumer Law Unit of the Hale and Dorr Legal Services Center. Click here to view a trailer of the “Maxed Out” documentary.