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  Corporation, The Everything In The Store Is For Sale
Year: 2003
Director: Jennifer Abbott, Mark Achbar
Stars: Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Naomi Klein, Ray Anderson, Jane Akre, Steve Wilson, Vandana Shiva
Genre: DocumentaryBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: It seems these days that everything is owned by corporations and they control all aspects of our lives, from the food we eat and the water we drink to the energy we consume and the products we buy. But is this necessarily a good thing? Are the corporations doing an effective job, or ar they, in fact, more concerned with making as much money for themselves and their stockholders as possible? And when we hear about big business crimes on the news, is this the fault of a few "bad apples" as we are informed or is the whole corporate set-up riddled with flaws - dangerous flaws?

In the 2000s, the feature-length documentary enjoyed a significant rise in popularity, spearheaded by the opinion pieces of Michael Moore like Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11. One of the lesser known efforts, but much appreciated by those who saw it, was The Corporation, and if you're wondering what side the bias falls on here you'll be in no doubt when Moore shows up as one of the interviewees, along with other recognisable left-leaning thinkers such as Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein.

Whatever your own political inclination, you can't accuse this film of being poorly researched or less than informative as the information piles up to take the running time to almost the two and a half hour mark. You may end up being dazzled with not only all those logos, but the amount of business scandal it amasses, and while it can legitimately be accused of having its eye on too many issues, the film nevertheless takes a measured approach. It is divided up into chapters (it's no surprise it was based on a book), beginning with various definitions of what the interviewees, from all sides of the debate, believe corporations to be.

After this opener, it's down to, er, business with the early history of the corporation, revealing that it was chance for companies to exploit the then-new anti-slavery laws and legally attribute the rights of the individual to their organisations without suffering the liabilities of them. From there they never looked back, but what kind of person would a corporation be? Using an official psychiatric chart the filmmmakers (literally) tick the boxes to demonstrate that it would be a psychopath, with no regard for others, no feelings of guilt and an obsessive self-interest.

Then the case studies arrive, with mind-boggling stories of crime on a huge scale. Two journalists tell how they were offered the chance to investigate what they wished for a hard hitting new programme, only for them to suffer constant interference when they tried to expose inadvertently cancer causing chemicals introduced to milk to increase the cows' production. They eventually took Fox, their bosses, to court for asking them to lie about the facts and therefore prevent the loss of advertising dollars, but failed to win after the court found it was not illegal to falsify the news!

This insidious nature of the corporation is in every part of society as we see a study on the nagging power children have over their parents to buy them stuff - a study to increase the effectiveness of the nagging, that is. Two students become sponsored by a huge corporation and plug them on every news channel going in return for money. Citizens in the Third World see their public property, like water resources, sold off and privatised even as they earn a pittance from the big business to make products for the First World who now pretty much own their country. And so it goes on, from tragedy to farce and back again.

When we are told that companies are now patenting genes so they can own living things (you know, like people) you are tempted to give up in despair, but the documentary is keen to leave you on a note of hope. Chomsky points out the similarity between CEOs and slave owners, that they may be nice and respectable family men but they're simultaneously culpable for shocking abuses of power. Nevertheless, the fact that they're still human after all and at least are now making moves to responsibility, and that concerned members of the public do have a voice against their excesses, means that it's not too late. However, that's not what The Corporation leaves you feeling, and the way that you only hear about business crimes through seeking them out in rambling examples like this doesn't paint a rosy future.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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