The central figures of any documentary will always be ambiguous; after all, we are watching reality and, no matter how the director chooses to skew the story, very few humans are black and white enough to understand in a feature. Thus, we have the Forecaster, a film centered on shamed financial advisor Martin A. Armstrong. Working as a retrospective of Armstrong’s wavering and lengthy career, the Forecaster puts an interesting character front and centre, but does little in the way of factual storytelling.
Armstrong’s career changes play a major role in the Forecaster. A self-made millionaire at the age of 15, Armstrong’s beginning and influence stemmed from coin collection. Once the potential of coin collection was filled, gold came quickly after, before finally making his name in the financial sector. A self-taught economist, Armstrong defeated the odds and was able to garner both a reputation and a large clientele, quickly moving to the forefront of the investment world. Whether you view Armstrong as the financial hero that he might like to be, or the deceiving conman many might already see him as, Armstrong is a clever person with a strong presence. Armstrong himself is the biggest drawcard to his own film, reminiscent of other character-centric-apocalypse-warning documentaries such as the magnificent ‘Collapse’(2009).
The drama of the film is focused around Armstrong’s financial-prediction formula and a conspiracy on the part of the government to seize it. Armstrong spent 2000 - 2011 in jail, with seven of those years being time spent in contempt of court - one of the longest contempt cases in U.S history - for refusing to surrender his assets. Although posing some interesting questions around the legality of the time spent behind bars without charge, the Forecaster ultimately plays out too close to its own chest. Adherents of Armstrong appear throughout, testifying to both quality of character and formula. The problems lay in the lack of credible sources to back the claims of Armstrong. The film almost entirely relies on friends and family to be the sole proprietors of evidence.
The opening and ending moments of the Forecaster work in symmetry, with a bubbly tarot-card reader predicting the future of Armstrong. Perhaps not one to believe in the readers of fortune, Armstrong sits stunned through these scenes agreeing with almost all that is said, whilst remaining somewhat apprehensive. Possibly a subtle nod from the film makers, making note of the fruitions of expectations. The ambiguity of the film makers is an interesting aspect of the film, with a clear stance never truly taken. Armstrong is bounced between the unsung hero and conman sporadically, leaving me apprehensive to the plausibility of his plight in question.
Although the Forecaster fails at telling a convincing story, Armstrong is a strong enough character to pull you through this feature on the dodgy financial dealings of late. Although not the expose on the stock markets I was hoping for, The Forecaster is still an interesting, and at times strong, character portrait of a man whose power has been dismantled.