The sad story of the widow of Akron at the center of a 5-part film about the mortgage crisis

In 2008, the mortgage crisis destroyed the lives of many Americans. Thousands of people – the prey of shady lenders who were quietly backed by equally shady banks and Wall Street – were left homeless.

In the decade that followed, many films, both fiction and non-fiction, such as the documentary “Inside Job” and the drama “The Big Short”, were made about the crisis.

Most looked top-down at the systemic and unethical, but often not technically illegal, reasons behind the crash. But a new five-part documentary, “The Con,” which is showing at the Nightlight Virtual Cinema until 9/11, begins with the tragic and unnecessary ending to the story of a real person who lived and died here. even in Akron.

Addie Polk, a widow, was 91 when authorities came to evict her from the home she had shared with her husband of more than four decades. A series of predatory loans prevented her from repaying them. Rather than face the perceived shame of homelessness, Polk chose to end his life.

Polk’s story opens “The Con” by Erick Vaughn and Patrick Lovell of Akron-based Red Point Digital Film.

“We knew this was the story,” said Eric Vaughn, writer, director, producer and owner of Red Point, “because not only was it a compelling and dramatic story, but Addie’s story was emblematic of everything that started this whole crisis to begin with.

“So I think we knew early on that his was the best story to tell the rest of the story of the great financial crisis.”

The film is also personal for Lovell, director of business development at Red Point, who in 2010 found himself among the thousands of ordinary people who lost their homes for reasons they didn’t fully understand.

This experience sent Vaughn, who also serves as the film’s interviewer and narrator, down a rabbit hole investigating billions of dollars in financial shenanigans for which the owners paid the highest price.

Vaughn’s discovery of Polk’s story was both sad and fortuitous for the production team. They had already produced a short documentary but were a little dissatisfied, and while processing what would become “The Con”, Vaughn especially felt like they weren’t telling the story they really wanted to tell.

“Patrick has always been a systemic guy. He looks at things from the top down, how it works from the top. My interest is always a bottom-up perspective,” Vaughn said.

“I thought I had to go back to what I originally wanted it to be, which was to look at financial crises from the perspective of ordinary people. All the other financial crisis documentaries have done a wonderful job of telling the story from the top down, but no one has told it from the bottom up.

But the production didn’t have the funds to send a team to look for stories across the country. So Vaughn moved with the company to Akron, Southern California, in 2014, in part because he “got a good vibe from the place” during a previous job in the area. .

The decision to cut costs to find local stories that could illuminate the human cost of the crisis proved fortuitous.

The first episode of “The Con,” “Who Killed Addie Polk,” features Lovell interviewing several of Polk’s friends and her pastor, Reverend Gregory Harrison of Antioch Baptist Church, as well as Akron realtor Lolita Adair. and fair housing activist.

The crew’s delve into Polk’s story led them to retired Summit County Sheriff’s Deputy Don Fatheree, who was on the scene the day Polk’s story came to a tragic end.

Fatheree introduced them to several law enforcement officers, mostly retired, who put together a task force that investigated Evergreen Homes and Carnation Banc.

Members of the task force are interviewed en masse at the Akron family restaurant. The investigation culminated in the raiding of the Wallhaven offices of Evergreen Homes and Carnation Banc and the conviction of Evergreen ringleader David Willan, who was sentenced to 16 years in prison for fraud in securities and mortgage.

The first episode also tells the story of another Ohioan, Clinton’s Becky Wiese. She lost her already-bought and paid-for home after shady appraisers and loan officers, who – like Polk – forged documents that it took her eight years to easily acquire after the statute of limitations expired.

These stories of two Ohio residents, an elderly city woman trying to maintain the home she had lived in for most of her life and a suburban mother who thought she was doing everything by the rules, helped the Red Point team focus and start connecting dots across the country.

“The fact that (Wiese’s) story isn’t remotely uncommon, or Addie’s story for that matter, was one of the other things we found out when we hit the road,” said Vaughn said.

“We interviewed owners and people struggling with this, and it was the same stories that came up over and over and over again. And that’s when it went from an interesting story and a terrible thing that happened to a horrible story,” he said.

The episode takes time to remind viewers that initially much of the media and many government officials blamed the foreclosed owners outright with clips from TV pundits and politicians.

Throughout its five hours, “The Con” takes a broader, “top-down” look at the crisis, touching on “too big to fail” government bailouts, and comparing and contrasting how the The American government of the 1920s and 30s held the banks accountable during the Great Depression as well as the government’s response to the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s.

But it’s the Widow of Akron’s sad end-of-life tale that’s referenced repeatedly throughout the series and another heartbreaking story from northeast Ohio that set the tone for “The Con”, because microcosms of how what may look good for Wall Street is not necessarily good for the average American worker.

“Once you see these same schemes happening over and over again all over the country and you understand a little bit how it happened, it gets really terrifying because all of a sudden there’s this understanding of the how systemic corruption can actually happen. “, Vaughn said.

“And once you see that you understand that happened right in front of us – on our blocks and all similar blocks across the country,” he said.

Pastor Gregory Harrison of the Antioch Baptist Church speaks to film narrator Patrick Lovell in the documentary