Year Released: 2003
Distributor: Zeitgeist Films
Running Time: 145 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: PG-13
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Wal-Mart Nation, What Would Jesus Buy?, The Big One, Food Inc., The Greatest Film Ever Sold, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Black Gold (documentary) , Bananas!*, Mickey Mouse Goes to Haiti
-The Corporation is the highest-grossing Canadian documentary of all time. Want to know what it dethroned? Manufacturing Consent, which was also directed by Mark Achbar. This is also Zeitgeist Films’ 2nd best-selling movie.-This is based on a non-fiction book of the same name.
-Co-producer Bart Simpson (no, not THAT Bart Simpson) has also created the Independent Film Legal Defense Fund. It’s an organization that protects filmmakers from lawsuits in regards to the 1st Amendment.
Corporations are everywhere. Don’t deny it.
Even some of the movies I’ve reviewed have been distributed by some of them even if they don’t own the movies or companies themselves. Let’s be honest here. If you’re complaining about large companies no matter how honest and valid your claims are, you’re probably ranting on Twitter on your iPhone while drinking a can of Monster while watching your Samsung smart TV while listening to some musicians signed to and/or distributed by Sony-BMG, Warner, or Universal. Although on the flip side, there are reviewers who get turned into independent media out of spite. Okay, that sort of applies to me.
The Corporation is a documentary that deals with the history and current realities of how these entities work. It critiques several elements such as the ramifications of globalization, the legal aspects, profit margins, and even a thesis on rating corporations’ sanity as if they were real people as a reaction to corporate personhood. As you may or may not know, in America, corporations are considered to be people. How did that start? It was a loophole in the 14th Amendment in the US Constitution. That was one of the amendments created during the Reconstruction period to ensure the rights of the recently freed slaves. These business owners wanted those rights for their companies to ensure more capital in the changing economy and thus the concept of personhood was born.
This documentary uses a mixture of interview footage, stock footage, and some news reels. The interview footage was quite beneficial and it didn’t just focus on one side of the issue. Sure, there were critics such as Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, and Naomi Klein, but business owners and CEOs got to say their side of the story. This could have easily been slanted even if I agree with Chomsky on certain points. They had the CEO of Royal Shell Oil (or just Shell) multiple times. There’s even footage of some Earth First protestors showing up at his rural cottage. He responds by talking with them and giving them some coffee which I found interesting, and I didn’t expect that from someone in big oil.
There’s so much content that I can’t talk about all of it, but they separate sections of the films dealing with certain topics. There’s the global aspect with how corporations do business overseas and how they get profits. The touchy subjects of privatization (see the Cochabamba, Bolivia protests) and sweatshops which can be tough to see. There’s the environmental issues where you see deformed and mutated animals. One major scene deals with reporters being forced to change/re-write a story that dealt with growth hormones that produce pus in some milk which is pure nausea fuel. They had to re-write it EIGHTY-THREE times before the story was killed. That’s just disgusting. There’s even a chapter called “Triumph of the Shill” where various interviewees talk about how companies profited off the Holocaust. Let’s just say you won’t look at a certain computer company or a famous soda ever again after watching it.
While The Corporation drops some hardcore truth bombs left and right, there are some elements that miss the mark. The psychology exam was a great metaphor, but I wondered how effective it really was in hindsight. The modern footage from 2003 has certainly aged with some dated digital encoding and aliasing. I also disagreed with Michael Moore’s point about on why he makes documentaries. This is saying nothing about what I think of his filmography, but his ideology of making movies distributed by major studios didn’t sit well with me. He claimed that these studios don’t care about the movies they sell which I disagree with. Sure, if it’s some mindless action movie, they don’t care. If someone tried to make a period piece drama of let’s say the Trail of Tears, the Tuskegee Experiment or a story of a film director sexually assaulting someone, then that’s not going to be distributed in Hollywood.
After watching The Corporation again after not seeing it in years, it still holds up. One can even argue that certain elements are even more severe now especially from a sociopolitical standpoint. There are some aged elements which make certain elements obsolete, but the content as a whole more than makes up for it. The history and actions reported in this documentary are quite fascinating. Recommended.
Adjustable Rating System:
Add 1 point if you like critiques on big business
Subtract 2-3 points if you’re intimidated by harsher news elements
-Well-detailed and researched content
-Reveals both sides of normal people and CEOS with interviews
-Well-explained concepts presented in layman’s terms for anyone to follow
-Michael Moore’s thoughts on “disrupting the system from within”
-Aged film in the 2003 segments with some film errors (green screens, etc.)
-So much content is packed and it’s relentless in it’s over 2+ hour time span
Final Score: 9/10 Points
Content Warning: Teens and up. There are a couple of swears including a racial slur towards Japanese people used in an archived clip. There are some disturbing images of animal and human experimentation in some of the stock footage and photos. The Cochabamba protests have some blood and some people lose limbs. One scene even involves the aftereffects of Agent Orange with a Vietnamese boy being very disfigured and his limbs are atrophied.
All other photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws.