Worth A Look: 17.76%
Just Average: 7.48%
Pretty Crappy: 0.93%
7 reviews, 65 user ratings
|Corporation, The (2004)
by Josh Gryniewicz
"The Corporation" is perhaps the savviest of documentaries, weighing in at a whopping 145 minutes, it packs every on-screen moment with sharp ultra-slick visuals that seem like hyperlinks navigating viewers through 150 years of corporate history by delving into some of the most prevalent social issues of our time. Thoroughly researched by Canadian filmmakers: Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott and Joel Bakan, "Corporation" begins with a comedic montage of the network news dancing bears addressing high profile corporate malfeasance – Enron, WorldCom, etc. as “bad apples” in the business world. The film then challenges the rhetoric by looking at the whole barrel starting with the rise of these institutions through the misuse of the fourteenth amendment, designed to designate human rights to recently freed slaves, by warping it out of context to provide legal protection to profit driven institutions.As clever in pacing as it is in style, this documentary balances its perspective asking, “What kind of person is a corporation?” Forty subjects from across the spectrum including high ranking business execs, political philosophers, activists, corporate spies, investigative journalists and economists weigh in on the most pervasive question in our global society. The conclusion the filmmakers reach, an “individual” driven by greed over all other motivations, that will lie, cheat and disregard peoples’ well being in pursuit of profit – in short, a “Psychopath” according to the World Health Organization Personality Diagnostic. In the case of pro-corporate arguments such opinions are even clearer in their telling of corporate brutality. For example, Carlton Brown, a commodities trader trying to explain how 9/11 was a profitable opportunity as well as a tragedy, appears crueler than would the same words coming from Noam Chomsky. The film covers a broad expression of the issues – using case studies to delve into sweatshop labor violations, environmental assaults and attacks on public health.
"Philip K. Dick was right -- they've taken over!"
If there is fault in "Corporation", it is that this approach may be too broad – if it were an essay – glaring red question marks would ask for transitional paragraphs and more information on topics like “Union Busting” which it gives set up for, but does not back up with evidence. While the evidence is out there (read almost anything written about Wal-Mart on both sides of the economic divide) their focus is on four significant case studies providing only the prompt for this and other issues without following through on them. In other words, the film is perhaps too acutely aware of its audience to deliver a genuinely revealing experience – that is, it can provide facts to make a political argument, but it is unlikely to politicize anyone.
“Corporation” does however grant an equally broad range of possible solutions from revolution in Bolivia over the privitization of water to the radicalization of Ray Anderson, CEO of the largest commercial carpet manufacturer, Interface, who has initiated a sustainable environmental program for his company. Anderson provides one of the most compelling arguments throughout the film – significantly moved by Paul Hawken’s “Ecology of Commerce”, he recognizes that he has been a “plunderer” of the earth’s resources and actively has changed the course of his business to address these environmentally degrading practices. Unlike the faux green washing that has been in vogue for many modern corporations (see: http://www.thegreenlife.org/report.html for examples), Anderson is sincere about sustainability and the documentary provides moving footage of him addressing his “fellow plunderers” who sit choked up and misty eyed in the audience. Such examples, while stunning, are unfortunately misleading –ignorance is not the primary reason corporations violate human rights and the environment, profit is, and for the most part, hoping that the business elite will suddenly see the err of their ways is a ridiculous notion. Will Interface continue these practices after Anderson has retired? If history is an indicator it’s unlikely; but such is the nature of reform.
Achbar and Abbott have a refined skill for visual images – for example, juxtaposing the chaos of anti-globalization activists pit against storm trooper- esque police in a haze of tear gas and rubber bullets with the internal meeting of the world’s financial institutions being carried in lofty board rooms far above is as powerful a representation of the forces at play than any captured on film.
Furthermore, when the film tackles Fox News’ malicious cover–up of the investigation into potentially harmful rGBH, synthetic milk producing hormone, fast tracked through FDA testing, unneeded on an already saturated milk market and potentially dangerous to consumers, the information is not new, but still incredibly engaging in the visual medium. Akre, one of the journalists fired for breaking the story in order to preserve precious Monsanto advertising dollars for Fox, shared her story as a contributing author to "Into the Buzzsaw", an incredible collection of essays that issues final say on media bias well beyond the Ann Coulter/ Al Franken banter. Having read of the attempted bribery, cover-up, termination and subsequent legal battles between Fox v. Jane Akre and colleague Steve Wilson – it was impressive to see how much a visual portrayal of the case added to the story.All of these images, a cross section of 150 years of corporate domination, could easily be drawn to cynical conclusions, but the film offers optimistic inspiration. Michael Moore concludes the film with the adage that a rich man would sell you the rope to hang him with –this film is to be that rope, motivating audiences not to merely enjoy its viewing, but to leave the theater and take action.
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originally posted: 08/19/04 18:40:47
|OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 San Francisco Film Festival. For more in the 2004 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.
This film is listed in our political documentary series. For more in the Political Documentary series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Minneapolis/St.Paul Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Minneapolis/St.Paul Film Festival series, click here.