The Corporation

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Corporations rule. But do they rule wisely? Could the institution that increasingly controls the essentials of life – that employs, produces and provides, extracts and pollutes, appropriates and monopolises, amuses and seduces, lobbies and bankrolls, disseminates and dissimulates – in fact embody all the characteristics of a psychopath? And wouldn’t that be cause for concern?

Achbar and Abbott’s hefty doc goes for the great white whale of our times: the engine of global capitalism’s wealth creation and distribution, whose ‘hidden’ costs, it argues, seriously overawe the benefits. It’s a vast subject, shrouded in fog and contention, and at nearly two-and-a-half hours the film is bursting at the seams with facts, argument and illustration: it’s both a primer to and omnibus on the ‘dominant institution of our age’. It rounds up the usual suspects on the lucid left – Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Naomi Klein, Michael Moore at his sharpest – but also sounds out free-market gurus and captains of industry, advertisers and corporate spies, sponsored students and Bolivian protesters. Some of the most fascinating elements include sequences on Fox News’s craven suppression of a scoop on Monsanto and IBM’s alleged provision of Holocaust accounting machines; footage of Canada’s elite preening 40 stories above street riots; and the fervour of born-again sustainability apostle Ray Anderson, CEO.

Indeed, there’s so much material that the film sometimes struggles to delineate it. Chapter headers tend to disappear under the film’s later digressions; neater is its early ruse of taking the corporation’s status of legal personhood and running with it, all the way to the shrink: the film ticks off a checklist of the corporation’s sociopathic tendencies. In fact this sociopathy is itself written in law: corporations must pursue profit over all other interests. Greed is good; greed can be harnessed; man can control his monsters. Eye-opening, irreverent and bang on the nose, this film means business.

Release details

Rated: PG
Release date: Friday October 29 2004
Duration: 145 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Jennifer Abbott, Mark Achbar
Screenwriter: Joel Bakan
Cast: Ray Anderson
Jane Akre
Chris Barrett
Maude Barlow
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