Why is the life of a fire-fighter who died a hero in the Twin Towers on September 11 worth on average a million dollars less than that of a stockbroker who lost his life in the same disaster? How much money should oil giant BP pay the countless fishermen on the Gulf of Mexico who are fighting for their livelihoods in the wake of the largest oil spill in history? How can hundreds of ailing Vietnam vets be compensated for their suffering, which stems from exposure to Agent Orange? How can hundred thousands of retirees who depend on a small pension be compensated if the pension fund they trusted in failed due to mismanagement? These are questions that almost appear cynical, but not for America’s most famous compensation specialist: Ken Feinberg.

Shortly after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, the US Congress created a fund to compensate all victims who agreed not to go to court. ONE man was appointed to have sole responsibility for deciding how much compensation was to be received by people according to their individual circumstances: Ken Feinberg. He offered to meet all victims or their families personally. However, his calculation model caused uproar among many of them who felt that the value of their lost loved ones could never be compensated with money.

In 1984 the Agent Orange case made Feinberg a household name overnight: 250,000 Vietnam veterans who sprayed the toxic defoliant over the jungle and who later suffered from severe diseases sued the chemical companies that had produced this substance. Feinberg managed to negotiate an out-of-court settlement.

However, it was the 9/11 compensation fund that truly made him a star. Since then, hardly a national tragedy has befallen the USA without Feinberg being called upon to play his part. We will focus on a selection of his major cases: Agent Orange, 9/11, the Wall Street crash, the BP oil catastrophe and a new one: the imminent cuts in the Central States Pension Fund.  

All of them are not only turning points in US history, but also ask troubling questions for all of us, worldwide.

PLAYING GOD is more than just the story of a controversial man who at times seems virtually omnipotent: What happens within our Western system of values when economic interests and people’s lives become intertwined through tragedy?

Director: Karin Jurschick

DoP: Timm Lange
Editor: Anika Simon
Sound: Pascal Capitolin
Music: Han Otten
Producer: Birgit Schulz

A film by Bildersturm Filmproduktion
co-produced by Windmill Film / Annemiek van der Hell, in co-production with SWR and WDR, in co-operation with ARTE, in association with GEO Television, Channel HOT8 / Israel and DR / Denmark 
subsidized by Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, Deutscher FilmFörderFonds, The Netherlands Film Fund

International Sales: Films Transit International

Word Premiere at HotDocs International Filmfestival 2017