The Corporation: First Impressions

I’ll write a longer review later, but because The Corporation (IMDB) may only have a limited run here in Atlanta, I just wanted to mention the movie briefly here tonight. This first review will primarily consist of most immediate impressions, and I’ll be cheerleading a bit simply because I think that others should see this film.

Jennifer Abbott and Mark Achbar’s film is almost certainly the most intelligent documentary I’ve seen all year. More than any other oppositional or broadly political documentary I’ve seen, this documentary treats the corporation as a systemic problem rather than seeing corporate abuses as the bad behavior of a few “bad apples” who took their greed a little too far. The Corporation is a very demanding film, but one that will reward interested viewers. In fact, the film dismisses this “bad apple” metaphor in the very opening sequence, noting that the public indignation at Tyco, WorldCom, and Enron (among others) actually fails to grasp the systemic problems of capitalism.

Like This Land is Your Land (review) The Corporation essentially begins with the problem that corporations have been given legal personhood through a misreading of the 14th Amendment and discusses the impact of that decision before treating corporations as a psychological case study to be evaluated and diagnosed for mental disorders (using the DSM), coming to the conclusion that corporations are essentially psychopathic in nature.

The filmmakers’ observations are supported by talking heads interviews with theorists including Naomi Klein, Jeremy Rifkin, and Noam Chomsky, as well as investment bankers and current and former CEOs who discuss the destructive nature of corporations. The amount of material presented in the film can be overwhelming especially in a single screening, but I think that’s inevitable when a film is going to set up and support such a complex argument. The Corporation is based on a book, and the sheer abundance of information reflects that depth of research. I’m still sifting through the ideas developed in this film and my experience of watching it, and I’m certain that I’ll have more to say about it in the next few days.

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