Using a mixture of humour, hard-hitting interviews and reportage, Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, working from a script by lawyer and professor Joel Bakan, dissect with laser beam precision the basis for corporate power.
The documentary aims not at a single company, although many of the usual suspects come under scrutiny such as IBM, Nike, Liz Claiborne, Gap, Bechtel, and Shell, but the "body" corporate. Noting that corporations are defined by law as legal persons, it shows how this person perfectly matches the criteria of a pyschopath. Ruthless self-interest: tick. Indifference to harm caused to people, animals or biosphere: tick again. As Baron Thurlow once noted, "They have no soul to save and they have no body to incarcerate."
At 165 minutes, at least in the festival version I saw, it's a long documentary that criss-crosses the globe in its analysis, but it's difficult to see what could have been left out. Leftist commentators like Michael Moore, Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky are interwoven with candid interviews with CEOs and corporate insiders. A marketing executive explains the importance of getting children to nag their parents until they are "guilted" into buying a product. Two investigative journalists recount how Fox News pressured them into killing a cancer story about BST, a Monsanto drug which increases cows' milk production.
There is a palatable sense of deja vu in the various incidents of exploitation, collusion, lies and deceit paraded here, but what The Corporation does well is provide a cohesive and intelligent argument against current business practices on many levels and then pulls it all together.
If there is any hope it comes in the form of Ray Anderson, the articulate CEO of Interface, the largest commercial carpet manufacturer in the world. A self-confessed "plunderer", he had an epiphany in the mid-eighties and has been championing sustainable business development ever since. Sadly, he is probably a rarity. As the film suggests, if we want more corporate accountability, it's up to us to act.