Film review by: Witney Seibold
“The Corporation” is one of the best films of the year. This is a film that should be shown in every classroom in America. It cuts to the heart of our country in a way few films have. It is a cousin to “Super Size Me,” and a sure relation to “Fahrenheit 9/11” (indeed Michael Moore is in this film), in that it points out that the Old Ways in the good ol’ U.S. of A. – be it what we eat, how we approach our leaders, or the way we percieve our economic system (in the 1950s, we were living in an infinite land of plenty. After 50 years, we’ve loused up and bought most everything that can be bought) – perhaps need to be changed.
A lot of the information presented in this documentary, made by Jennifer Abbott, Joel Bakan, and Mark Achbar (the latter of which co-directed the stellar 1992 documentary “Manufactuing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media”), is actually old news, and the central message is one that most politically-minded people are already familiar with: i.e. corporations are unfeeling behemoths that are interested in nothing but profit, and will step on anyone and anything, including its own workers and the general health of the planet, in order to make as much money as possible. This message is not what makes the film great. What makes the film great is how succinct, clear, and creative it is. And how passionate.
The entity that we know today as a corporation began, of course, during the Industrial Revolution, when productivity became so high so quickly, that new groups of people were formed to manage all this new money. Under these new corporation laws, corporations were seen as a single person under the law. The film, by that metaphor, begins to psychoanalyze this corporate “person” and finds, with its lack of guilt and disregard for anyone else, that it would indeed by a psychopath. We get horror stories of news reporters who were silenced on the matter of the cow growth hormone rBHT. We get the story of the two college students who sold themselves to a large business in exchange for tuition. We get the rather distressing information that whenever a business-owned laboratory maps out another point on the human genome, that business owns the copyright (in the 1980s, thanks to Exxon’s oil-eating bacteria, it was made legal to patent living things). And, most hopeful, the CEO of a polluting textile plant and wanting to repent, and go so far as to change his company, after he realized how badly he had been plundering the Earth. Also on for the ride are Moore, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Kline, other CEOs, a spy, a commodoties trader, and marketing people. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
The corporation has become like the Church was in days past. Not the group chosen to run things, but certainly the one calling the shots.
It is brave, bracing, and informational. It challenges deeply-rooted American concepts. No one will leave this film without something to say. I have a minor quibble about the short amount of time given to the history of the corporation and the long amount time given to the story of the reporters, but at 150 minutes, we already get a lot.