Due to hit New Zealand cinemas on Thursday, Capital in the Twenty-First Century examines inequality of wealth through time and how a progressive tax on capital could be the answer.
Based on French economist Thomas Piketty's book, the documentary-style film looks at the capital superpowers - Britain, France, the US and China - from the Industrial Revolution to World War II and beyond.
- Capitalism 'a success', but things must change - economist
- Homelessness proves capitalism is a 'blatant failure' - Jacinda Ardern
- NZ economy 'dangerously close' to stalling, says economist Cameron Bagrie
From the 18th century, when poverty was "a death sentence" and capital was based on money lending and landowning, to the 1950s (post World War II), when people believed that capital must be harnessed, the benefits of a cohesive society and maintaining a strong middle class are explored.
Justin Pemberton, film director said it's surprising that the brick-sized book of over 600 pages was such a big hit.
"The film is a result of greater appetite to explore the impacts of inequality than what was possible in the book," he said.
In the Reagan era, a reduction in the maximum tax rate was made with the idea that this would trickle down to lower incomes.
Citing this move as giving most of the growth to the top 10 percent, the film entertains the idea that the economy hasn't worked for most Americans.
Touching on financial impacts closer to home, Pemberton said that as the biggest drain on income, property prices are an example of how the political system hasn't dealt with the capital crisis.
"We're told we're in a low inflation world - but look at asset inflation and houses.
"If houses triple in value over 25 years, how is anyone on an average salary able to afford a home?"
The multi-million dollar question is, has the idea of a progressive wealth tax been floated?
"Politicians don't want to upset voters [including] homeowners.
"People are happy to pay tax on income, why not income tax on property?"
Based on the assumption that for over a century, the lion's share of economic profits have gone less to the workers and more to those who own the capital, have we come full circle?
"[I'm] not saying that history repeats, [but] history rhymes," Pemberton said.
Capital in the Twenty-First Century is available at cinemas nationwide from Thursday.