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I Thought Dubner Was the Ultimate Genius – Until I Saw the Freakonomics Movie


If you were to spend half a day reading some of my academic papers and then spend half a day reading Freakonomics or SuperFreakonomics, the conclusion would be inescapable.
Dubner is a genius.
There is no other explanation as to how my dryly-written academic treatises spring to life in our co-authored books.
A guy I definitely did not think was a genius initially was Chad Troutwine.? He approached Dubner and me years ago with the idea of making a Freakonomics movie.? That sounded like the worst idea I had ever heard.? Chad had a vision and a track record of success in everything he has ever touched, so we agreed to let him give it a shot.? Never in a million years did I actually think the film would get made.
Well, it did get made.? So last Friday, with great trepidation, I found myself in New York City attending the premiere of the Freakonomics documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival.? I had not seen any part of the movie in advance.
I wondered how in the world they could turn a book like Freakonomics into anything that somebody might actually want to watch.
Somehow, they actually did. In ways I never could have imagined, the various directors managed to create an amazing visual spectacle that not only entertained, but was beautiful, smart and was (with maybe one or two exceptions) true to the ideas in the book.? The task these filmmakers had was way harder than the one that Dubner and I faced when trying to write the book, but they pulled it off.
Even more miraculous, they actually succeeded in making me sound articulate.? (I asked one of the filmmakers afterward how he managed to accomplish that, and he said without humor,? “We had to go through nearly 10 hours of video clips to find those three minutes.”)
Which is why, in relative terms, Dubner’s genius has been diminished in my eyes.? I will always consider him a genius, but now he has to share the pedestal with Chad Troutwine and the six directors of the Freakonomics documentary.
If you want to see for yourself just how ingenious these folks are, you will either have to wait until fall when the documentary gets released in movie theaters across the country, or find an illegal copy on the internet.