Film Review: “Playing God” (2017) ★★★★

What happens when a person gets severely injured at their workplace? Maybe that person will never be able to recover their health afterward and be able to go back to that same work. What about those catastrophes that take one’s job away, for instance, an oil spill into the ocean? What about a firefighter who loses his life during a disastrous event, such as September 11th or even after that? Now, what about the compensations all aforementioned should receive according to the law? If you are curious to learn about how it is being handled and what kind of bureaucratic processes take place backstage, “Playing God” offers you a head-turner look into the fascinating world of multiemployer pension reform where each individual is being evaluated by a special American Attorney, to see whether they are eligible to get compensation for their loss due to circumstances that were not under their control.

For many, Kenneth R. Feinberg appears to be something like a God. Being specializes in mediation and alternative dispute resolution, Feinberg was appointed  Special Master of the U.S. government’s September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. In addition to that, later on, he was appointed by the government as the administrator of the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund. There were 38 countries involved and hundreds of thousands of employees, hotels, fisherman and many others to dispute their claims. As you can imagine, it’s a stressful and ungrateful job to do. Especially, when some claimants may end up with empty hands. For example, employees with low wage most probably will get less compensation than the rich people. There is a delicate balance to seek for, but Feinberg is doing just fine in fulfilling his primary duty.

“Playing God” is very informative, scary and in the meantime, brave look into the world of the one man who has one last word to decide, who will walk out with pension, compensation, treated fairly, and who will have to go back to the same place with empty hands because of their failure to convince that they directly suffered from a disaster. There is no fairness when it comes to distributing billions of dollars, especially when those dollars are provided by the taxpayers. But the most interesting part is the process itself, and I am sure some of the viewers might want to dig deeper to learn more about it.

In conclusion, this film is not just a story of the multiemployer pension reform act by the Congress or its participants. It is about being able to recognize who is eligible and who is not. It is a tough job many may not be thankful for. But the honesty and the rules are what is being honored mostly when it comes to justifying claims. Whether that is the case with “Playing God” or not, is up to millions of opinions. I am sure, at some point, will be divided into two armies – those who support it and those who will be against. Surely, this documentary knows well how to draw that thin line.


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