The Corporation (2003)

Pollution. Underpaid workers. Control of the media. Contempt of governments and courts. Patenting of genetic information. Those are only a few of the problems caused by today’s global corporations, corporations that claim to have the same rights (but not always the same responsibilities) as living persons.

This is what The Corporation is about, a Canadian documentary trying to convey the message that corporations have become far too powerful to actually do good for society. It is an extremely well produced documentary. It is clear that it was made by professionals, and also that it must have had a high budget for that kind of film. Many celebrities critical of corporations appear, including Michael Moore, Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky, each with his/her own angle on the subject matter.

"Harm to human beings: Toxic waste" from The Corporation (2003)

Though this is a relevant film with an important message, it is most interesting to me personally for two reasons. One is that it puts the corporation into a historical perspective. In fact, I would have liked to see an entire film devoted to that subject alone, as it is only briefly sketched here. The other reason is that it focuses on the corporations as entities and tries to tell us why those entities become a menace to society, even though the people in them may be good and well-meaning.

The story is told from a very American perspective, and even though it was produced in Canada, focus is very much on the US. We Europeans like to think that we do not have the same kinds of problems with commercialization that the US does, but it is important to remember (as the film reminds us several times) that these are global corporations. Therefore, whatever problems these corporations cause in the US, or in their Asian sweatshops, those become problems in Europe, too. Or in Africa. Or wherever you happen to be.

If there is a problem with The Corporation, it is mainly that the film tries to cover too much ground. There are so many threads going in all kinds of directions that it is impossible to pull it all together into closure. Instead the film ends in what is perhaps a little bit cliché, as we are fed the message that yes, we can do it! If we work together, we can do it! And maybe that is just not true? Only time will tell.

This film is best enjoyed when seen together with the documentaries Orwell Rolls in His Grave and Enron – The Smartest Guys in the Room from around the same time. These three films tackle different aspects of what is basically the same cluster of problems. When seen together they help to provide a larger picture, and even though they cannot subscribe to the absolute truth, they show that many people see the same kinds of things from different perspectives.

"Bow your heads. The corporation will now lead us in prayer." Anti-corporate demonstration in The Corporation (2003)

The Corporation
Download link
Year: 2003
Running time: 2 h 26 min
Directors: Jennifer Abbott, Mark Achbar
Image quality: Good
Resolution: Medium (640×368)
Sound quality: Excellent
Best file format: DivX (700 M + 699 M – 2 parts)

Orwell Rolls in His Grave (2003)

When I was a young man in the 80s and 90s, I used to think that I was living in a good world. That humanity, generally speaking, was going in the right direction and that we had a bright future ahead of us. Well, time has moved on, and so has my mind. Nowadays, I tend to be increasingly cynical about the future of mankind. Perhaps that is why I am writing a blog about cinema instead of anything important. A form of denial. Do something fun, and anxiety may perhaps be kept at a distance for a few hours more.

But even in the world of film, reality creeps up every once in a while, even though it is reality filtered through the minds and performances of the filmmakers. A good example of this is Robert Kane Pappas’ documentary Orwell Rolls in His Grave. Even though it is more than ten years old, it still has some interesting things to say about where today’s media are headed.

George W. Bush - one of the targets of the documentary Orwell Rolls in His Grave (2003)

It is important, when watching a film like this, to realize that it is not a balanced account of the state of things. Quite to the contrary, every person in the film who is allowed to speak freely is someone who shares Pappas’ point of view. That is not to say that it lacks value, nor that there is no truth in it. As a matter of fact, I find it absolutely terrifying to ponder the kind of world we are living in if only half of the accusations are true, and especially given developments such as the NSA surveillance, that were not known when the film was made.

Yes, the film is relevant, in spite of its age, and even though it has in some ways aged considedrably. There is much reporting about George W. Bush, for example, who was president at the time. Today, we tend to think that Bush was some kind of cruel American joke on humanity, not deserving to be taken seriously, but back then Bush was actually real and his statements and actions carried meaning.

The strength of this documentary, and the reason why it remains relevant, is the way in which it intertwines interviews and other typical documentary material with quotes from George Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty-Four. As I have already noted in my review of the 1954 film Nineteen Eighty-Four, the US is not Oceania, and there is no reason to believe that it will turn into Orwell’s dystopia. But the allegories in the book and film are perhaps even more relevant today than they were when the book was written.

This film is best enjoyed when you are ready to step out of your bubble for a moment and look at some not so very nice aspects of reality.

They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality ... and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. Quote from Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, from the documentary Orwell Rolls in his Grave (2003)

Orwell Rolls in His Grave
Download link
Year: 2003
Running time: 1 h 44 min
Director: Robert Kane Pappas
Image quality: Excellent
Resolution: Low (480×320)
Sound quality: Excellent
Best file format: Cinepack (1.5 G)