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Home > Media

The Corporation: fighting the power

29 October 2004

The Corporation is a documentary film dedicated to 'today's most dominant institution'. At a post-screening panel-discussion at the Curzon in Soho on Monday, one of the film-makers and the man on whose book the film is based, Joel Bakan, admitted that it was 'a point of view film'. Having admitted that however, The Corporation comes across as surprisingly balanced. The talking heads in the film are from many different backgrounds. As well as the obviously anti-corporate big-shots such as Chomsky, Michael Moore and Naomi Klein, we also hear from CEOs, academics, Disney cogs, spies, writers, whistle-blowers and Nobel prize winning economists. And whoever happens to be speaking, and whoever is listening, the message is the same, and it is crystal clear: corporations really do suck.

The film traces the history of 'the corporation', from its humble brick and mortar beginnings to its insidious personhood and burgeoning psychopathy, creating a picture of bewildering power and horror. Particularly fascinating the story of how legal corporate shysters took the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution - the one instituted to grant human rights to all human beings, including those of African origin - and used it to confer human being status, and the concomitant legal 'personhood' rights, upon the corporations they worked for. By which deft chicanery, corporations were enabled for the first time to enjoy important constitutional protections, including of course, limited liability. This translates as the right for any CEO or company investor to climb out of a Bhopal-sized hole, should one arise, with nought but a smile and a wink and the words, 'It wasn't me!'

Various case-studies illustrate the rise to power of the corporation, some of which you may have heard before, but all of which are impeccably told and all worth hearing again, a thousand times if necessary. Such as the story of former Fox journalists, Jane Akre and Steve Wilson, who unearthed the news that Florida and much of the country was drinking milk which had been poisoned by Monsanto-produced bovine growth hormone; and how they were told to remove anything critical of Monsanto from their report - for example, the word 'cancer', to be replaced with 'human health implications'; how they were told, point-blank: 'Just write it the way the lawyers want it written.' How they took on the lawyers and, in the end, after a long, painful legal process... well, lost. They retained their integrity of course. And that is a kind of victory. But Monsanto have yet to be driven into the ground, or at the very least, stripped of their power to write
our news. Not yet.

One of the questions raised at the talk on Monday criticised the filmmakers for not providing a realistic alternative to the corporate economic model. Panel-member, Dan Gretton, representing a political arts collective called Platform, responded by suggesting that it really didn't matter. He said that sometimes you just have to speak out. And of course he's right. See it as a group of people systematically destroying one species of animal after another whilst simultaneously giving rise to an international cancer epidemic: do we really have to have a viable, foolproof alternative before we try and do something to stop them? Surely not.

On the whole it is an inspiring rather than depressing documentary. For its very presence allows us to hope that change is on its way. Michael Moore ends the film with a little rabble-rousing, asking himself why corporations would help distribute work which clearly aims to be severely detrimental to their health - such as his films, such as this film - and his answer is twofold: firstly, they are interested solely in money, and they would gladly sell you the rope to hang themselves if they thought it would turn a profit; and secondly, they have no faith in human beings: in other words they don't believe that any number of documentaries or films could in the end make a blind bit of difference. They think that as soon as the film is finished, everyone watching goes back to being obedient little consumers. Michael Moore doesn't agree. And we're siding with him.

Don't watch Alfie this weekend. Apparently the best thing about it is the make-up. Watch this instead.

The Cast: http://www.thecorporation.com/about/whoswho.php

The Corporation opens across the country today.

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