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The Corporation

Director: Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott

2003| Colour/B&W| 145 mins| Canada


One of the hallmarks of great documentary practice is a film’s ability to illuminate a forest, where once there were only trees. In their portrait of the corporation as a social institution, filmmakers Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott have done just this: mapped the contours and functions of a phenomenon so pervasive it can be difficult to see.
Taking recent corporate accounting scandals as a point of departure, the filmmakers trace the origins of the corporation as a publicly regulated institution to its present-day social predominance, dwarfing and influencing governments world wide. Along the way, corporations’ ideals and benefits are weighed side-by-side with their abuses and harms by speakers ranging from CEOs and marketing professionals to economists, activists, and social critics, including Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore.
Employing a wealth of archival resources, the film traces the elaborate history of the corporation, including bizarre links to Hitler’s death-camps and the emancipation of American slaves. Whimsically aping the forms of corporate public relations media, the film offers a wildly entertaining but ultimately alarming examination of the corporate phenomenon, in which virtually every human’s life is enmeshed, but around which a broad public debate is just emerging.

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