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New Doc Exposes What’s Wrong With the Corporation


by Jeremy Mathews
 
 

“The Corporation”
Zeitgeist Films
Directed by Jennifer Abbot and Mark Achbar
Written by Joel Bakan and Harold Crooks
Produced by Mark Achbar and Bart Simpson
Featuring Jane Akre, Ray Anderson, Baude Barlow, Chris Barrett, Noam Chomsky, Peter Drucker, Samuel Epstein, Milton Friedman, Naomi Klein, Susan E. Linn, Luke McCabe, Mikela J. Mikael, Robert Monks, Michael Moore, Vandana Shiva and Steve Wilson

Not Rated

(out of four)

 

“It’s no trick to make a lot of money, if what you want to do is make a lot of money”

—Bernstein, “Citizen Kane”

s trade scandals and worldwide protests continue to cast a negative light on the moneymaking entities called corporations, an equal number of free-trade proponents and high-dollar lawyers work to defend the entities and inspire support of their enterprises among the people of the world. “The Corporation” breaks down the structure and perceived obligations of the business model that has taken over the world with little respect for its people.

Like most opinionated political documentaries, the movie is designed to spark action in the hearts of those who see it., but is also a detailed study. The film runs about two and a half hours as it studies the history and emergence of the corporation, with plenty of talking-head interviews with black backgrounds featuring intellectuals like Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein. While this method risks growing tiresome in such a long documentary, directors Jennifer Abbot and Mark Achbar and writers Joel Bakan and Harold Crooks provide a great deal of creativity and humor. Among the archival footage are old industrial and educational films that reflect quaint ideals on the free market and some specially pieces to illustrate concepts like branding.

The most interesting insights come from the court rulings that established that a corporation has all the rights of an individual, yet doesn’t face any of the responsibility. An FBI profiler describes the checklist of psychopathic behavior and the filmmakers match it to that of a corporation’s behavior, which comes from the single obligation of making more money for its shareholders.

The documentary provides an alternative to the corporate norm in the form of Ray Anderson, CEO of commercial carpet giant Interface, who realized that corporations owe the people their consideration of their output’s impact on the environment and didn’t want to be part of the problem.

“The Corporation” puts a face on the people of less earth-friendly corporations than Anderson’s, arguing that the people aren’t bad, the corporate structure is. In one episode, a CEO talks to protesters in his front yard and says that many of their concerns are the same as his, he just as trouble protecting the environment while looking out for the shareholders.

Part of the ending is an extended excerpt of the final sequence of Michael Moore’s “The Big One,” in which Moore asks Nike CEO Phil Knight to open a factory in his home town of Flint, Mich. While it’s an interesting scene and the filmmakers are using it legally, a more unique ending could have been fashioned.

The underlying message of the entire film is that the corporate structure creates a shield under which executives allow things to happen that they would never allow to happen on their own. A new kind of corporate restructuring is in order.

jeremy@red-mag.com

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