Corporation, The (Canada; 145 min.)

directed by: Jennifer Abbott; Mark Achbar
The Corporation
Bruce says: "In 1712 Thomas Newcomen invented a steam engine that pumped water from the depths of coal mines, making them safer and more accessible. This event triggered the Industrial Age; everything could suddenly be measured in units – units of production, units per man-hour, cost per unit, etc. The Industrial Age presaged the advent of the corporation, a means to manage and control increased output. The original idea of incorporation was to serve the public good; most of the initial corporations had stipulations involving scope, duration, and earnings. Viewed as 'members of society' they were given legal and contractual rights to do the same thing that individuals had been doing for years: buy and sell; sue; and borrow. In other words corporations themselves were individuals. Just people like you and me.

"Today the corporation is the singlemost influencing factor in our society. It has replaced other institutions such as the church, monarchy, and the communist party as the driving force in the game of 'follow the leader' where there is always a lack of public control. THE CORPORATION focuses on asking the question, 'What kind of person is the corporation?' To zero in on the answer, the filmmakers have performed a psychoanalysis of sorts, looking closely at certain behaviors. The findings conclude that corporations demonstrate the following behaviors:

  • Inability to maintain lasting relationships
  • Reckless disregard for the safety of others
  • Deceitful cunning and lying for increasing profits
  • Incapacity to experience guilt
  • Failure to conform to social norms
  • Callous unconcern for the feelings of others"

"Diagnosis: Psychopath. Certainly any human being demonstrating such behaviors would be institutionalized in order to protect mankind. However, to listen to some CEOs of major corporations, we should be viewing corporations as our saviors not as deranged beasts. Perhaps that is part of the delusion, a delusion similar to that of early aviators who thought they were flying when they were actually free-falling. One example in THE CORPORATION is Monsanto’s use of synthetic chemicals linked to toxic effects, cancer and mutations in living organisms. Monsanto initially called those findings trivial and anecdotal. Another example is IBM’s defense of punch card machines used in German concentration camps. IBM denied selling any machines for such use; true enough, the machines had been leased.

"The psychoanalysis is a very effective device. Each of the above items was followed by many examples and discussions by experts from all areas. Most talking heads from big business spent time dancing around the core issues with specious arguments. One exception was Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface, the world’s largest carpet manufacturer. He readily admits, 'I’ve been a plunderer,' and that he had 'no environmental vision.' He had to be educated in order to have a conscience. He is now proud that Interface is well on its way to having 100% sustainability, the ability to exist without taking from others. His story gives one faith that change is possible.

"Equally heartening is the story from Bolivia. Bechtel Corporation maneuvered to control the entire water supply of Cochabamba a mountain town with nearly one half million inhabitants. This impact of this 'corporate takeover of natural resources' was that the residents of this city would end up paying out 25% of their annual earnings solely for the privilege of drinking clean water. The people rebelled, took to the streets and Bechtel was literally 'run out of town.' What better example that the power of the people can foment change.

"The Cochabamba affair is just one tiny instance where privatization and globalization have conspired to rob citizens of this earth of their natural resources and the ability to earn a decent living wage. One think tank executive proudly claims that 'One day everything will be owned by somebody.' In case you think that somebody might be you, think again. And if that statement doesn’t scare you, you should be aware corporations are quietly patenting microbes and human genomes. One corporation already 'owns' the patent on the human breast cancer gene. Potentially we are headed in the direction where corporations own parts of our bodies.

"Howard Zinn, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, Milton Epstein, and Vandana Shiva are all impressive in presenting arguments against 21st Century corporate behavior. The obstacles for turning things around are awesome to say the least. Globalization has complicated the monitoring and regulating process because it is often difficult to determine who has the authority to blow the whistle.

"Living in a country where most citizens are totally entertainment focused, thinking has been branded as a loathsome malaise. Witness the Bush Administrations disdain of scientific data, blatant facts, rational argument, and logical conclusions. Our leaders are quick to ridicule anyone who connects the dots. THE CORPORATION is a film that provokes thought. My mind was spinning as I exited the theater; for me there is no better feeling.

"To be fair, THE CORPORATION would be better if it were shortened by a good number of minutes. That is a small complaint in light of an outstanding accomplishment. 5 cats"

Chris says: "See this movie: although it's long and one-sided and verges on information overload, it makes a shrewd, intelligent case against corporations by simply presenting a frightening amount of evidence on how damaging and dangerous they are to everyone. As it moves from a tapestry of generalizations to in-depth reporting of specific cases, it successfully emphasizes the human cost of making 'the bottom line.' This movie tells us what's wrong with the system, but unlike Michael Moore's films, it gives us some concrete ideas as to how to go about fixing it, even if the solutions are only the first miniscule steps."
Diane says: I won't say too much about this film and leave that to the politicos and
pundits, but:

This docu, based on the book of the same name, has a huge subject to cover, and the audience at the Coolidge grew restive at the 2:15 hr mark. I'm getting leery of films that are too one-sided and can make us feel smug (SUPER SIZE ME, F 9/11 [okay--I didn't see it!], this one). We need to acknowledge our complicity: I used two gallons of gas to get to this movie; I wear Gap jeans. It's my Lutheranism coming out:
simultaneously saint and sinner.

"About halfway through THE CORPORATION, I was thinking, Boy, is this a downer. But there are a few folks and stories that restore hope. And the filmmakers, after using a lot of talking heads, chapter titles, good graphic metaphors, wisely punch up the last third of the movie with some stirring narratives.

"BTW, Janet just told me that she saw HOW'S YOUR NEWS on TV last night.
What a great docu! Makes me long for the days after the election when we
can return to whimsical docus that speak to the heart.

Hilary says: "It was great to see another huge crowd at the Coolidge, following on the FAHRENHEIT 9/11 screening the other week. And as with F 9/11, still de-pressurizing a bit the next day.

"Earlier today I described it (very briefly) to a friend as simultaneously scary, overwhelming, and inspirational. It was a lot of information to take in, I definitely felt each moment of the 2 hours and 25 minutes pass by. For me, the most heartbreaking/affective moments came from the interviews with 'regular guy' activists: an Indian doctor and 'seed activist' and a Bolivian anti-water privitization organizer.

"Thankfully, there are a few moments of comic-ironic relief. My favorite was the pow-wow between environmental activists and former chairman of Royal Dutch/Shell at his rural English home. The activists are served tea and coffee on the lawn of the chairman's house as the 'murderers' banner they've hung on his roof flaps in the breeze.

"More tough but necessary viewing, especially in this major election year."

Michael says: "In the year's string of political documentaries, THE CORPORATION hits the hardest. I was alternately chilled, stunned, and empowered with knowledge as I heard the bleak tales of corporate greed, culpability, and dispassion related to me from the mouths of various talking heads. Unfortunately, filmmakers Jennifer Abbott and Mark Achbar should have been a bit more liberal with the editing. Coming in at 145 minutes, THE CORPORATION became more overwhelming than informative as more and more shocking stories drove information learned earlier in the film right out of my head. Two and half hours is a long time to listen to talking heads tell tales of wrongdoing, and the buckets of information poured into my brain started to fuse the longer the film became.

Still, THE CORPORATION is an important film. It definitely makes me stop and think about my consumer habits and wonder how I can change them to be more globally conscious. Definitely stay away from pasteurized milk! The film is not all gloom and doom, however, and I was particularly inspired by the CEO of the largest carpet manufacturer in the country (or in the world? I can't remember), who, when asked to deliver a keynote speech about the environmental impact of his company, did his research and committed his corporation to becoming sustainable by the year 2020. Gird your brain, and relax your body, but do see THE CORPORATION. You may become fidgety and annoyed at the length while viewing, but afterwards, you'll be glad you were involved. 3 1/2 cats"