2003 - PG - 145 Mins.
|Director: Marck Achbar and Jennifer Abbott|
|Producer: Mark Achbar|
|Written By: Joel Bakan and Harold Crooks|
|Starring: Noam Chomsky,
Kofi Annan |
|Review by: Greg Ursic
In the late nineteenth century, lawyers convinced the U.S. Supreme Court that the 14th Amendment, which guaranteed the rights of a person should be extended to cover corporations. Fast forward to the early 20th century when Edward Bernaise, taught corporations how to sway the masses from needs based buying i.e. groceries, clothing, etc. to decisions based on desire (his first success was convincing women that smoking was fashionable). He was courted by the lords of Wall Street, who made him obscenely wealthy, and his teachings led to the jingles, billboards and commercials that we’ve all come to love and hate. But surely corporations are guilty of little more than subtle harmless manipulation. Right?
Documentary filmmakers Jennifer Abbott and Mark Achbar decided that it was time to evaluate how corporations have progressed as productive members of society and spent six years researching and interviewing dozens of people. Not only were the findings discouraging, they proved to be downright troubling: as anyone who has taken Psych 101 knows, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states that the desire to improve one’s lot in life is inherent. Corporations have interpreted this to mean profit, but their pursuit of the magic dollar has proven to be all-consuming. In addition they demonstrate an inability to connect with others, regularly act without regard for the safety of other and view guilt as a foreign concept. According to the guidelines of the Psychopathy Checklist, the corporate 800 lb gorilla is an antisocial deviant.
While Enron, Worldcom, and the long forgotten S&L scandals highlighted corporate avarice they fail to capture the full scope of what corporations are capable of in the pursuit of profit. The film addresses the standard litany of offences, including corporate farms befouling world’s water supply, the virtual enslavement of children in third world factories, and people being killed by corporations– either by accident in Bhopal or deliberately by tobacco companies. But they don’t stop there.
The film’s highlights include a California company that was granted ownership of Bolivia’s water supply thereby making it illegal for citizens to collect rainwater which lead to a revolution until the license being overturned. More disturbing was the firing of two investigative reporters by Fox News, when they refused to lie on camera and the stunning outcome of their lawsuit against the television network. These revelations are bolstered by myriad interviews with economists, civil rights activists, lawyers, psychologists, etc. They range from the sustainability epiphany of Ray Anderson the CEO of the largest carpet making company in the world, to Vancouver’s own Michael Walker who extols the virtues of companies that relocate to the Third World and “save their populations”. There are a few downsides.
It is readily apparent that the majority of interviewees are clearly left leaning, and the “capitalists” are made to look either hawkish or ridiculous. I was also curious why they chose to focus on the tenuous IBM/Nazis link, when the case of German multinational Degussa was clearly demonstrable (they processed the gold fillings from concentration camp victims, produced Zyklon B, and counted several high ranking nazis among their directors after the war). They also detail Monsanto’s role in the defoliation in Vietnam, yet completely ignore their ongoing role in the deforestation of Colombia. My biggest concern is that they fail to acknowledge that it is our consumer culture that continues to drive the problem, and act as enablers in this dysfunctional relationship.
'The Corporation' is amusing, engaging, and often shocking, and sure to spark conversations afterward. Judging from the amount of ink spilled in several leading business publications to discredit the film it has they’ve clearly touched a nerve.