[AFF] This Land is Your Land

I attended my last Atlanta Film Festival screening yesterday evening, watching Lori Cheatle and Daisy Wright’s This Land is Your Land (IMDB), a film that sought to document the powerful impact of corporations on everyday life, using both humorous images of corporate branding, and later, interviews from Natchez, Mississippi, a town that has been devastated by factory closings. The film draws from the stories of many other people as well. Cheatle and Wright generally take a talking-heads approach, focusing primarily on interviews, and allowing people time to tell their own stories, an approach that I think works well with the material they’re addressing in the film.

The opening segment of This Land focuses primarily on the ubiquity of advertising and features interviews with Naomi Klein of No Logo fame. Most of the material here will be relatively familiar to the people who watch this film, but it’s still rather humorous to watch one woman, who is wearing Adidas products from head-to-toe, comment on how “tacky” it would be to mix-and-match corporate brands. More crucially, we are introduced to two running subplots in the film: a small independent coffee company sued by Starbucks for using its trademarked name “Christmas Blend” and a lawsuit against Nike for using misleading advertising. The latter case allows Cheatle and Wright to introduce one of the film’s more powerful arguments and consistent themes. In short, they are challenging the interpretation of the 14th Amendment that allows corporations to be treated as people.

Also enjoyable: an interview with Granny D, the 89-year-old New Hampshire woman who decided in 1998 to walk across America to raise awareness for campaign finance reform and is currently running for the US Senate in New Hampshire.

The film builds nicely towards a concluding section in which we see the different ways in which people have responded to the negative effects of these corporations. In general, the film does a great job of landing many of its critiques with a relatively soft touch (that is, without appearing mean-spirited), which I think is a useful approach. In its spirit and politics, the film seems to take its cues from Jim Hightower (blog), who is prominently featured in the film. In general, it’s both a fun and thoughtful film, and even with the critique of corporate power, This Land is Your Land never leaves the viewer feeling powerless.

Update 7/5: Here’s a quick link to the Austin Chronicle review of Land. I’ve been thinking about this film a lot over the last few days because of my “teaching globalization” paper. Also, because of the July 4 holiday, I’ve been thinking about definitions of citizenship, and this film addresses that question in a very effective way.

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