Corporation, The

September 2nd, 2004 Film, Film Reviews, Xpress

Directors: Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott

Appearances by: Michael Moore, Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, Sir Mark Moody-Stewart, Milton Friedman.

There’s no doubt about how much Achbar and Abbot owe Michael Moore, even aside from his appearance in The Corporation.

Revitalising the global movie market for documentaries — in particular political documentaries — Moore has paved the way for a movie like The Corporation to succeed in a way no distributor or filmmaker would have dared believe five years ago.

And while it leans decidedly to the Left and will add to the weight bearing uncomfortably down on conservative governments around the world (and the multinational business interests that enjoy a revolving door personnel policy with them), The Corporation is a more balanced film and as such a truer documentary than anything Moore has produced.

Instead of simply attacking the way corporations have abused and plundered the environment, global workforce and financial system, Achbar and Abbott bring us the history and story of how the corporation as a legal entity operates and how they’ve evolved to enjoy the unprecedented amount of power they’ve attained during the last century.

The filmmakers realise (and deliver) two essential elements to tell the story. Firstly, the presence of Moore, Klein, Chomsky and the other high priests of the social justice movement will fortify the position taken by the film to an enormous degree and give them huge credibility with supporters of their views.

But they also realise that the Moores and Chomskys will only be preaching to the converted. The Corporation also puts people like Sir Mark Moody Stewart and Ray Anderson in the same chair, the former chairman of Royal Dutch Shell, the latter CEO of US textiles manufacturer Interface (which is working towards a sustainability policy that would make Greenpeace cheer).

Sure, there’s an element of PR in the comments made by business people (Achbar himself recently told the media that it was easier than you’d imagine to schedule such high profile executives for essentially an anti-business statement simply because of how sensitive they are about controlling their image).

But for activists who think chairpersons and CEOs are sitting in boardrooms across the world plotting to destroy the world and laughing to themselves like Dr Evil, it’s a wake up call. They’re people with families and fears for the future and are as concerned about the environment and the downward pressure on wages as you and I.

But as Chomsky points out, it’s the legal construct — not the people in the country clubs — that causes trouble, chartered by law to maximise profit by any means necessary.

As a film, it will both make you laugh and chill you to the bone. Learning that the behaviour of an average corporation qualifies it (according to the DSM-IV, the bible for psychiatric disorder indexing the world over) as psychotic is as powerful as learning the simple, spin-free truth about the terrifying new gene patenting industry.

The Corporation is such a well-made and balanced film despite it’s strong message because (far from being the little-known rising star Moore was a few years ago) director Achbar is an accomplished documentarian whose previous work includes the seminal study of Noam Chomsky’s work on media influence, Manufacturing Consent.

Already a theatrical hit in Canada, The Corporation is sweeping the globe like a good email joke. After stunned silence and spontaneous applause followed its REVelation Film Festival screening last month, it’s rolling out across the English-speaking world with more countries to follow.

At almost two and a half hours, it’s heavy going and there’s a little danger of information overload to those uninitiated in the social justice movement. Likewise, anyone who’s avidly digested the work of Chomsky, Moore or Klein, who reads New Internationalist or knows what the Battle of Seattle was really about will already be familiar with much of the content.

But for any viewer, it paints an accurate and thus disturbing picture of one of the least questioned paradigms of our society. It’s a sort of Grand Unified Theory of corporate power and abuse, taking in themes from the Bolivian water crisis to sweatshop labour, and everything in between.

If you’re at all interested in how the decisions of a handful of rich men affect every aspect of your life, don’t miss it.


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