A new documentary to hit the big screen, following in the footsteps of Michael Moore, this film challenges one of the major evils of our times, while only slightly touching upon the subject of Bush. Supporting the hypothesis that the modern multi-national corporation shares the character traits of a psychopathic person, Abbott, Achbar and Bakan take us through two and a half hours of facts, footage and testimonies from corporate professionals and political thinkers. Any film of this length can seem daunting, much less one with such a powerful target. However, it could have gone on much longer and only still just skimmed the surface.
Firstly, we are visually assaulted with hundreds of major corporations’ names and logos, just to give us an idea of what we are dealing with, and of course all of them are recognisable. Interviews are interspersed with amusing archival footage of educational programmes and commercials from the ‘50s, demonstrating the innocence that corporations were able to get away with, and narration by a strange computerised voice. Not relying too heavily on in-your face visuals, graphics are simple and kept to a minimum.
Starting with the history of corporations, their inherently devious “personality” is established from the onset. Seizing the opportunity found in the wording of civil rights laws intended to protect newly emancipated slaves, corporations are legally defined as “persons”. This has noticeably carried through the legal system to general public opinion. In street interviews large corporations are described with human adjectives. Apparently Nike is young and lively.
The Corporation takes us through the usual abhorrent list of wheeling and dealings throughout the global market to emphasise the complete disregard for life and environment, if they dare stand in the way of profit. The now dated case of Kathie Lee Gifford sweatshops throughout Third World countries; biosphere degradation as one “reformed” CEO describes as “generational tyranny”; misunderstood chemicals causing diseases; the list goes on and on.
While the filmmakers clearly have their own agenda to fulfil, there is still a general attempt to remain unbiased. Interviews conducted, all with the uniform black backdrop, do attest to this as some major corporations are given a voice through CEOs and their proclamation of taking the moral high ground in relation to corrupt business practices, not that we believe them. Take, for example, the commodities trader Carlton Brown, whose clients in gold doubled their money directly after 9/11, “In devastation there is opportunity. It’s all about creating wealth.” Or possibly the advertising executive who established the Nag Factor to hone in on the desires of children and their ability to prey on the weaknesses of parents: “Is it ethical? I don’t know.” Other interesting little facts may shock and disturb, such as first-hand insight into the workings of Fox “news” or the new era of securing profit from human genes. Not to mention some US corporations’ role in supplying products to assist Nazis during the Holocaust. But we should already know this.
Although focusing perhaps excessively on US firms and interests and lacking a general opinion from a younger generation, The Corporation is the long waited for dissection of this machine of modern capitalism. While maybe not shocking us beyond belief, possibly it will incite some to become more pro-active and take a stand. By the end of the filme we are given a slight glimmer of hope. Perhaps not all is lost.
The book on which this film is based is now available. See www.thecorporation.com for more information.