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The Spider’s Web: Britain’s Second Empire

The British Empire is a thing of the distant past, long dead and buried. But, out of the ashes a new, more destructive empire emerged; one that couldn’t be controlled, one that couldn’t be tracked, and one that ensures that the elite stay in control and the ordinary person being kept down. The Spider’s Web is the story of Britain’s transformation from a colonial power to a financial power, exploring how the financial structures created by City of London financial interests lie at the heart of this transformation.

The film was self funded with a budget of £4000, and came to be after the director’s interest in Nicholas Shaxson’s “Treasure Islands”, a book that detailed the on-goings of a secret off shore bank based in the Cayman islands. As director, Michael Oswald began to unpick the web of corruption, lies and deceit, it was revealed that the on-goings in Cayman Islands are only the tip of the iceberg. Oswald was interested into exploring how Britain went from one visible empire to an invisible empire that allows tax havens to thrive and where bankers are allowed free rein to do whatever they please, and where the British government turn a blind eye.

Forget anything by John Le Carre, this is a real political drama which is more thrilling than anything seen in Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy. This documentary isn’t like any fiction film that Hollywood has ever produced, which goes to show you that real life is far more sinister and corrupt than anything that a screenwriter can imagine. The Spider’s Web will leave you on the edge of your seat, and shaking your head about the information that is revealed, questioning about whether this is really the case because it seem so disturbing and shocking. Director, writer and producer Michael Oswald has managed to deliver a documentary that doesn’t shy away from the ugly truth, that these off shore accounts and the upper elite ruling our financial markets, are being allowed to continue their corrupt world of business and as a result it is crippling the poorest and most vulnerable on a global scale.

Today, Britain and its dependencies are by far the largest global player in the world of financial secrecy and international finance. This explosive documentary explores how Britain came to hold this position and what impact this has had on Britain and the world. I am not economist, in fact my knowledge of how the British economy works can be summed up on the back of a post-it note, but still Oswald’s documentary kept a hold on my interest and was never too over-complicated to follow and understand. There’s something very interesting and in-depth interviews with people like Alex Cobham, Nicholas Shaxson, John Christensen, Eva Joly, and whistle blower Stuart Syvret, who all help shed some light on the uncomfortable situation and they all seem like experts in their field.

The film’s strength lies in its subject matter, use of archive footage, interviews with economist experts and narration by Andrew Piper, all of which helps to create a fascinating documentary which never slows down and keeps going on with enduring force and impact. Often I feel these type of documentaries become bogged down with facts, figures and statistics which become confusing and repetitive, but this doesn’t occur here. There’s a unique freshness to The Spider’s Web and it is perhaps one of the most intriguing and informative documentaries I have seen all year, and like all good documentaries it led me down a rabbit-hole eager to do my own research into this topic.

In a mission statement by the director, he states how he wishes that the film ”will help shine a light on part of this obscurity and contribute to the creation of a world where financial rules and regulations are to the relative benefit of all players and apply to all participants equally regardless of their position or importance.” I certainly feel that the documentary has done exactly what it has set out to do and it is worth seeking out for this reason. I will be interested in seeing a follow-up to what has been the outcome of the documentary. My only grumble is that the documentary is too short and I am sure there’s more shocking truths to be uncovered. A truly eye-opening experience which will leave you with some sleepless nights, as you wonder just how far this web of lies spreads.

If you are eager to discover more, then please check out the film’s website:  and follow on Twitter



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