The ratification of the 14th Amendment was meant to hold the federal government accountable for the protection of African-Americans, but corporations used the law’s loose language to deem themselves legally human. If corporations are protected under the law as living, breathing people, then this enthralling Canadian documentary—winner of the Audience Award at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival—sets out to tell us what kind of people they are. Directors Jennifer Abbott and Mark Achbar apply the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to demonstrate that the corporation is psychotic by nature, and over the course of two-and-a-half hours, the filmmakers dissect the ethics of the business world and its pathology of commerce, diagnosing the corporation’s affinity for exploitation and disregard for the safety of others. Abbott and Achbar’s examples of corporate irresponsibility, from U.S. business practices in Nazi Germany to the privatization of water in Bolivia, are positively frightening. (It shouldn’t come as a surprise that an entity sadistic enough to exploit a civil right’s law to its advantage would one day champion its right to patent life itself.) In applying a personality test to the corporation, Abbott and Achbar essentially come to the conclusion that this “dominant institution” is a failure as a human being, even though individual people working for that institution may be wonderful people when functioning individually outside that institution. Edited so as to resemble an elaborate business presentation, The Corporation may be the most engaging study tool ever devised (it’s only a matter time before the doc is worked into college curriculums across the country). Featuring a slew of expert witnesses (economists, psychologists, Noble Prize winners, Noam Chomsky, even Michael Moore), The Corporation takes on big business but goes one further by offering a means of fighting back—something Moore’s The Big One failed to do. Abbott and Achbar seem to understand that changing a corporation’s way of living is something that can’t happen overnight, and as such their final diagnosis hinges on what you and I can do to make the corporation a better neighbor. Though Kathie Lee Gifford’s sweatshop fiasco may have done very little to deter child labor in third world countries, the fiasco at least brought the issue to the consciousness of most people around the world. Knowledge is power, and because corporations haven’t figured out a way to patent the First Amendment in the same way AOL/Time Warner bought the “Happy Birthday” song, the best thing you can do is to see this film and spread the word.
- Zeitgeist Films
- 145 min
- Jennifer Abbott, Mark Achbar
- Joel Bakan, Harold Crooks
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