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McLibel
IMDB Rating: 7.7/10 from N/A votes
Release: 20 May 2005 /

McLibel

Genre: Documentary
Director: Franny Armstrong, Ken Loach,
Stars:
Synopsis: McLibel is the story of two ordinary people who humiliated McDonald's in the biggest corporate PR disaster in history.

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Critic Reviews

A long time ago there was a company that made lots of money by selling bits of meat between two bits of bread. Many people were employed to put the meat between the bread and many animals were killed to be the meat. A friendly clown persuaded children to love the company. Some decades passed and all was well. The company became very, very rich. Richer even than many countries. And then some people wrote in their newspapers than eating lots of the meat and bread could make people ill. Other people said on television that too many trees had been cut down and that the workers were unhappy. This made the company very angry. The company looked around the world and saw that in England there was a special law that could stop people saying things the company didn't like. And make them say sorry.

It is with the above text (delivered in a Star Wars fashion) that this film starts with – pretty much immediately helping you work out if your politics and sense of humour are in the right place to be part of the target audience for this documentary. The story of the film is famous now; basically in the early 1990's McDonalds took libel cases against many people who had spoken out against them – papers, television channels, pressure groups, generally media groups and the like. Drawing retractions from the majority of them, McD's was very happy with the UK system and set about going after other targets. David Morris and Helen Steel were volunteering with Greenpeace as part of their belief in environmental activism, part of which was handing out a pamphlet "what's wrong with McDonalds" outside the outlets and telling the "truth" about the company. When they got served with a libel writ from the company, some of their group apologised and retracted but Helen and David said no and started to defend themselves against a team of very expensive lawyers retained by McD's. The film documents their case and then the action that they took in the European Court of Justice years later.

Having been made over the whole ten year period (rather than looking back) the film is gripping and really involves you in the story. The case is boiled down to the essence and it is made surprisingly fluid and exciting as a result. The dramatisation of the courtroom scenes feels a bit cheap but still works – although it doesn't help that Morris, despite being natural and himself across the rest of the film, comes across as wooden and "acting" in these bits. The bias in the presentation is there of course and if you disagree with them then this isn't the film for you. However, I saw them both as rather pretentious hippy sorts but yet I was still able to get behind them, learn the lessons and be inspired by them. And really "inspiration" is the film's main strength because their story is amazing and it totally flies in the face of those who say "what difference does it make if I etc etc"; I still think that individuals are limited in day to day life but when the chips are down, if you can stand your ground it is possible to make a difference.

Alongside this, the target audience will love the anti-Corporation thing. I'm not a protester or anti-Capitalist but it is satisfying to watch McD be taken down a peg – even more so now that we have spent the last year or so watch them start to lose ground, lose profits and many of the McLibel accusations be backed up over and over by many sources, to the point that most viewers will totally agree with the "lies" that Morris and Steel were telling. Ideal viewing alongside the equally important (but a lot less serious) Super Size Me, this is a great documentary that makes up for the low budget feel by being gripping, entertaining and inspiring.

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