We previewed the upcoming HBO release Becoming Warren Buffett, which premiers Jan 30th.
Warren Buffett is a sensitive man but you wouldn’t necessarily know it from his public persona. The Nebraska USA native has always maintained an air of confidence and certainty publicly, but a new film by Peter Kunhardt works to reveal more behind the billionaire through home videos, rare interviews, and never-seen photos.
Ask Warren about investing, and he gives rote answers. They’re more like bits of punchline advice, simple in word, but deeply abstract. According to Buffett himself, to understand how to make wealth, one must understand value investing, the method by which he relies upon. However, value investing is by no measure “simple” or “gracious” in its execution. In Becoming Warren Buffett, Buffett cites the beauty of compounding interests countless times. In the interviews with many family members, coworkers, and friends, all with the permission of Warren Buffett, a more interesting story beyond Warren’s quick, nervous humor develops.
It’s a complicated story. Surely Buffett knows the value of money and what it means for many people. But go further— Buffett refers to his job- the whole finance industry- as a game. A game he enjoys. However, Buffett in his early years was profoundly affected by it. He was competitive. He was quick. And endlessly smart. The film recounts Warren’s extraordinary rise in earnings. He’d do paper routes, sell used pinball machines, even trade AT&T stock against his teachers in elementary school. But money was not a serious thing in his youth. His father was a trader, but didn’t make money a motivation. In a sense, Buffett was acting just as you’d expect- an intellectual more interested in the game. Buffett breezed through high school, briefly moved away from Nebraska and found it terrible, he needed Nebraska for its calm energy, its normalcy, and dare we say, its value.
Indeed, Buffett’s maths skills are no doubt impressive, even gaining him access to Columbia University. But the film reveals a complicated family life around his interest in earning and intense sense of competition. At first, it seems money isn’t “money” to Buffett, it’s just the material by which his game is played. Developed over two years, the documentary reveals Buffett to be unshakably focused on any given topic at any time, willing to open his family to the Kunhardt who reveal his intense focus on work sometimes interfered with life. Buffett loves his family, and met and married his first wife, Susie, at a young age. The two of them stayed in Omaha, but Warren’s work life challenged Susie.
They remained married, but she moved to San Francisco, a space that would take kindly to her bubbly and powerful personality driven by civil rights and justice. And with Susie’s help, Buffett would embark on a remarkable transition toward becoming a Democrat— and changing his relationship towards the meaning of money, which ultimately lead to his donation of nearly all his personal wealth to charity- in addition to a call for all billionaires to do the same.
The film is interesting and engaging and deeply revealing, there’s plenty more to be discovered about Warren Buffet that the Kunhardts sensitively attended to, including some surprises. The Kunhardts worked closely with Warren himself, who’s own behavior is curious and worth watching for any indication of replicable genius traits in ourselves.
Becoming Warren Buffett is premiering January 30th, 2017 on HBO.