Monday, November 12, 2007

[DVD] The Corporation (2003)

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Corporations are everywhere, providing goods and services that we consume day in day out. We've heard a lot of things about corporations, about their governance, social responsibility, environmental protection or lack thereof, in the news, and it's so part of every day life, can a documentary highlight its evils and stoke the flames in a call to action to make corporations more accountable for their very existence?

The Corporation is a very compelling look at corporations, about how they come about in a free market, subscribing to mantras such as "in devastation there is opportunity", the levels of protections they have managed to obtain to protect themselves against various liabilities since they are after all, legal entities with rights, and how through their doing of business, actually have plenty more opportunity costs incurred that goes against the benefit of mankind. Of course first and foremost, their objective is to maximize profits for their stockholders (Economics 101), and it becomes a tussle between stockholders, and the wider, more encompassing stakeholders, which include their workers, consumers, customers and the community.

I thought it was interesting enough for the film to have profiled the corporation to be akin to that of a psychopath, and provided enough believable evidence to support their claims. It's a very slickly done documentary, with professionally designed animation, effective talking heads dishing out enough soundbites to make you go "Hmm...", and plenty of distinctly different visuals (presentation charts, cartoon clips, news reels etc) to keep you engaged throughout its 145 minutes, which you do not feel at all. It tackles a wide range of topics about the corporation, some arguing for it, most arguing against it. It doesn't set out to explain its stand through shock tactics, but do so with very well-measured delivery and logical arguments with a call to action.

But while the filmmakers agree that you cannot expect change overnight, what little things you can do, such as exerting democratic authority over corporations by voting with your dollars, do ultimately go a long way. There are success stories incorporated here, mostly with the help of protests by civil rights groups (is that why they're deemed dangerous here, since they can become catalyst for radical changes?). And the interviewees that were assembled, are what you can call a world class power team.

Words don't do justice to this documentary. You just got to watch it, and let the barrage of arguments sink in. You might agree with most of the arguments, but wonder how the world would inconceivably be a better place without the corporation-created wants and perceived needs to add spice to our mundane lives. Oh, and the digital female voice narrating portions of the documentary, is oh so sexy!

The region free DVD from Zeitgeist Video comes in 2 discs, with the main documentary film in anamorphic widescreen. Audio comes in either English Dolby Surround or English Descriptive Video. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish. The menus are slickly animated and well done, and given that it's a long documentary, it's logically segmented into 24 chapters in its scene selection menu. 2 Commentary Tracks are available, one by the producer-directors-editor Mark Achbar and Jennfer Abbott, while the other track is by writer Joel Bakan.

Disc One Extras

The Q's and A's (27:11) contains 8 questions fielded on the making of the documentary, and the answers are taken from various interview panels at film festivals, interviews and talk shows. They do add an additional layer of understanding, especially on why the filmmakers did the movie, and what message they wanted to convey, since it is rather obvious you cannot eradicate corporations or their perceived "evilness" completely. Thank goodness too for the Play All option available. Audio quality in this section is mixed, inherent from the source of where the clips were obtained from.

There are 8 Deleted Scenes included, running a total of 16:45. Some contains one or two scenes dropped off from the final product, while others are actually stand alone sections which somewhat couldn't fit nicely into its already long runtime. The section on Competitive Intelligence is my favourite here, and must have been a pity to have been left out, and keep your eyes peeled for a possible pre-cursor to Michael Moore's SiCKO from clips taken from his talkshow An Awful Truth. Comes with a Play All option as well.

The Majority Report Interview with Joel Bakan the writer (39:15), is a radio talk show hosted by Janeane Garofalo (yes, that Janeane). It contains further discussions on the comparisons of the profile of a corporation with that of a psychopath, and how the structure of a corporation presents very interesting arguments on liability, especially when rights are violated. Broken again into logical pauses (for commercial breaks), by the time you sit through this, you realize that it managed to summarize the entire documentary into 40 minutes with Joel explaining pertinent issues in more depth, though of course minus the interesting visuals and talking heads.

Katherine Dodds on Grassroots Marketing (6:55) is a short look at how the movie reaches out to the audience and getting the buzz out there, through activists, its website, forums, and talks a bit about the logo design, the one with the man with an angel's halo and the devil's tail.

Rounding off the extras in Disc One are The Corporation Trailer (1:53) and the trailer of another documentary called Manufacturing Consent (2:36), and a nod to the filmmakers in its DVD Credits.

Disc Two Extras

Now this disc is the real gem. It contains a nifty searchable menu organized according to topics or interviewees. Naturally when making a documentary, there will be plenty of bits and pieces that have to be truncated to fit, and you wonder just what the interviewee had said in full. This section contains over 5 hours of additional footage where you can zoom in to topics of interest, or listen again to the interview subjects explaining their views in perspective and context. Makes a very interesting encyclopedia of knowledge on the subject examined too.

And when you have time or are clamouring for more information, click here to access the official website, now into version 2.0!

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