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The Corporation
IMDB Rating: 8.2/10 from 17,160 votes
Release: 4 June 2004 (USA) /

The Corporation

Genre: Documentary, History
Director: Mark Achbar,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Since the late 18th century American legal decision that the business corporation organizational model is legally a person, it has become a dominant economic, political and social force around the globe. This film takes an in-depth psychological examination of the organization model through various case studies. What the study illustrates is that in the its behaviour, this type of "person" typically acts like a dangerously destructive psychopath without conscience. Furthermore, we see the profound threat this psychopath has for our world and our future, but also how the people with courage, intelligence and determination can do to stop it. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

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Critic Reviews

Where once we used to shop at our local shop and have bread and milk delivered by the local milkman from the local farms, now we shop in a supermarket that is multinational, eat at fast food restaurants that are everywhere and wear clothes made in the third world by those living in sweatshops. This documentary looks at the Corporation as if it was a person (something that US law says it basically is), charting its development, its character and the effects the concept of profit driven corporations has had on the world we live in.

First of all let me just say that I am fairly liberal in some regards but not to the degree as many of the audience I saw this with, many of whom could not signposted themselves anti-capitalist students if they'd actually carried signs. I should also own up and say that I currently work for an American corporation; in fact one of those who's logo flashes up in the section on the top 50 criminal companies (although I did work for an environmental charity prior to this so that gives you some idea of my muddled politics!). Having read No Logo, Fast Food Nation, seen Michael Moore films and, hey, actually used my own eyes and brain, it came as no surprise to me that the idea of a business that considers no growth to equal failing and must constantly earn more and more to be a bad thing. Nor was I surprised by the sweatshops or pollution that occurs. Neither would any of this be a surprise to the majority of the already tuned-in audience and wisely the film doesn't just rant at us about how terrible things are; instead it takes a fairly compelling look at the wider problems associated with this model. It is consistently interesting, compelling and, sadly, all a bit depressing.

The film's strength is that it never gets personal or preachy. The film allows the CEOs to get a fair chance to present their opinions and it never demonises any of them, the vast majority of them actually come off as very nice guys who seem to genuinely want to be ethical, environmental etc. Not only does this give the film a balanced feel (a refreshing change from Moore's axe-grinding and sermonising) but it also makes the subject more scary – it would be better if the system could be down to careless, evil men but it isn't; it is the system that is the problem and no one person is to blame. The structure of the film jumps around a lot and I'm not sure it entirely works because it is pretty overwhelming although I suppose it was always going to be hard to frame such a large, complex topic – just look at the anti-capitalist protests to get an idea of the multi-issue argument.

The film is not perfect of course and, looking around the audience after the film, it is evident that this film has mostly played to converted rather than winning new converts in the main. Part of this is how overwhelming it is but also the fact that it does run pretty long as well – not a problem once you're into it but perhaps a bit of a turnoff for those not seeking it out. Secondly the lack of answers is also a bit of a problem. I guess I preferred the ending to the alternative of being told to eat mung beans and make our own clothes but it is easy to feel that we just have to accept what we are being told is bad. For me personally this wasn't a massive problem because I do hold a position where I have to work to improve the sustainability of a small part of a big corporation so I left rather hopeful and looking forward to work the next day – but for many viewers I can understand why it feels like a dead end.

Overall though, this is a very good film that allows everyone a fairly balanced crack at the whip even if its agenda and politics are obvious from the start. It avoids demonising, simplifying and making it personal and it is stronger and more engaging as a result. It provides no easy answers but it does provide challenges and plenty to think about with all the talking heads making valid points for all sides and perhaps showing that the answers do lie in the middle – not the extremes of money chasing shareholders or the noisy and brightly dressed street protesters. Regardless of your politics it is worth seeing this film and it deserves to be seen by as wide an audience as lesser documentaries have been (and yes Michael Moore, I'm talking about you).

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