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:: The Corporation

In the mid 1800’s, American corporations won the rights of a legal person under laws originally designed to protect freed slaves. This gave them the right to own property, to take others to court and to be taken to court themselves, as a single entity. Mark Achbar, Joel Bakan and Jennifer Abbott take a critical look at this individual in their new documentary, The Corporation.

The first thing to be said about this ‘person’ is that they are powerful. The influence of large corporations in today’s society is phenomenal. They are not bound by international borders like governments and do not die or possess a moral conscience like individuals. The film is divided into nine sections that each look at a different aspect of the corporation as a ‘person’ and a social institution. It uses a Personality Diagnostic Checklist from the World Health Organisation at the end of each section, to gradually analyse the corporate ‘personality’ as though it was lying on a psychiatrist’s couch.

The result is a thought provoking and disturbing story, frighteningly like Frankenstein. Decent and ethical people seem powerless to control their monstrous corporations simply because the corporation is responsible for itself. The stories range from shocking to repulsive and are carefully selected to bolster the film’s core ideals of anti-globalisation and sustainable capitalism. Economists and the corporate elite are however, allowed their say alongside prominent supporters of the cause, such as Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky. This conflict of ideas makes for interesting viewing and a balanced approach, free of the conspiracy theories.

At almost two and half-hours, The Corporation is quite long for a documentary but is compelling enough to justify the time. Lively and poignant interviews give insider analysis on the workings of the corporate machine. The filmmakers break up serious, gloomy facts with snippets of 20th Century pop-culture and corporate training films from the fifties and sixties that highlight just how embedded the corporation is in our daily lives.

The Corporation is heavy viewing, not really a Saturday night flick, but is a fascinating and revealing look into America’s business culture, that raises serious questions about our own. This film should be seen by anyone who drank milk today, and never thought what might be in it.