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Corporation, The


Rating: NR

Distributor: Zeitgeist Video

Release Date: April 5, 2005
Review posted: April 26, 2005


Reviewed by Greg Malmborg




The Corporation is a fascinating documentary exploring the institution of the corporation, its inherit nature, its history, and its rise.  There is one central question posed and explored in the film which is, since the law defines a corporation as an actual ďpersonĒ, what kind of person would a corporation be?  The film is played out like a business presentation and it records a clinic analysis on a corporationís personality.  The diagnosis uncovers that if corporations are to be looked at like people their inherent traits would make them certified psychopaths.  They have incapacity for guilt, no concern for others, will destroy anything in their paths, and have absolutely no moral basis (among many other traits explored).  The documentary goes into each area of a corporationís personality and backs up each point with loads of evidence.


Corporations were originally formed as a way to perform public services and when the project or service was completed the corporation ceased to exist.  Now they are the most dominant institutions on Earth and are created for only one reason, to make profit at all cost.  That cost can range from the destruction of the environment, the use of chemicals and toxins increasing cancer and other diseases in humans, the loss of ethical practices and moral obligations, and many of the most prominent problems in this world.  And yet corporations canít help themselves, they are set up so that any direction besides profit generation and motivation is deemed illegal in the business environment.  They are inherently wrong in how they are set up and now the world has to live with it.




The Corporation is an amazing, epic-scale documentary putting its focus on an enormous world-view issue, one of the biggest issues facing the global society today, that elicits feelings of respect and admiration for its filmmakers whether you agree with the thesis or not.  This is an important, extraordinary documentary that everyone should see regardless of your political orientation and feelings towards big business.  Although the documentary has some problems (amateur look, long running time, and forced points) the overall experience is groundbreaking. 


The film is not always subtle; at times it feels like it is forcing the point.  For instance, tying the Nazis to IBM because the Nazis used IBM systems seemed like a ridiculous point to me.  Or the incredibly long tracking shot on a patent office with rows and rows of new patents while discussing the patenting of human genomes was tedious and grating.  There are moments like these scattered throughout but for the most part, the filmmakers have done their research and let their stories and interviews speak for themselves.  This is also a long documentary (at 145 minutes) but since it fits in so much information and themes itís really amazing they were able to do it in that amount of time.


There are numerous interviews throughout the film with some very interesting, engaging and intelligent people; they include the usual left-leaning headliners like Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky and balances those out with numerous interviews with CEOs and even a right wing icon in Milton Freidman.  Itís this balanced discussion that makes The Corporation such a unique and gratifying experience.  Moore has the closing remarks and they are very powerful and memorable.  The film also discusses solutions not just problems, which is what I always look for.  Itís very easy to point fingers and point out all of the problems in society, but to propose viable solutions to these big issues is admirable and a welcome surprise. 


The film is finely directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, arranging all the interviews, montages, news footage, and graphics into a cohesive, pointed documentary.  The look of the film, as well as the graphics used, is a bit amateurish and there can almost seem like too much information at times, but the film is an unforgettable experience.  This is a documentary to seek out.




The Corporation was shot on digital and it looks great, the transfer is clean and sharp.  The stock footage looks tremendous too, which is usually not the case with most documentaries. This is an anamorphic widescreen transfer presented in 1:85:1.




The audio is a bit of a problem with the discs, it is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and there are some noticeable issues (like the voice over not being very audible and clean the whole way through and the surround is sporadic and off).  There are noticeable balance problems and the sound from the old newsreels and footage are sometimes difficult to hear.




This is a two-disc package that contains an overwhelming amount of outstanding extras, there is basically another 6-hour (!) documentary included.  This is an amazing 2-disc package for people who are enthralled by the subject matter and the original film.


The first disc has two audio commentaries, deleted scenes, interviews with the filmmakers, Janeane Garofaloís interview of Joel Bakan conducted on Air America, a featurette on the grass roots marketing campaign, and two theatrical trailers


The first audio commentary is from Achbar and Abbott and the two filmmakers also turn out to be marvelous conversationalists infusing the commentary with wit and intelligence.  This is a terrific commentary providing insight and back-story to many areas of the film I found myself asking questions.  The second commentary from Joel Bakan is also quite good; he is the author of the book the documentary is inspired by.  Bakan is also a very intelligent man with insight and ideas that he is able to eloquently get across.  The only problem I had with the commentaries was that Iím not sure why there are two, why did they not just combine them into one with the directors and Bakan?  It felt like overkill with the two, but the commentaries are quite entertaining and informative. 


The deleted scenes included are not very interesting and are obvious as to why they were cut.  The interview with Garofalo is entertaining as long as you can stand her (she has a definite love her or hate her personality).  All of these extras on disc one are more than the usual amount in themselves, and yet there is a boatload more on disc two. 


Disc 2 has over six hours of additional footage (interviews and features) that are uniquely organized by interviewee or topic.  From this disc you can see that the filmmakers basically had an eight-hour film that they had to cut down to two hours.  This is what was cut.  You can choose what to watch by the person being interviewed or by the topic (I found it much easier to watch by topic and much more interesting).  The footage is all outstanding as the original film is and it will give you a much deeper sense of what the filmmakers have accomplished, as well as what they had to sort through when trying to piece together a 2 hour film.  The topic that was a stand out on disc 2 for me, that wasnít discussed much in the original cut, is corporate branding.  There are some great discussions and footage around the topic, very fascinating information.




The Corporation will most likely be dismissed as liberal propaganda by the right and the left might ignore it by feeling disenfranchised right now, which would be a shame as this is one of the most important, groundbreaking documentaries in some time.  This is a film to seek out.  Hereís hoping it does well on DVD.




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