4.7 4
Director: Jennifer Abbott, Mark Achbar

Cast: Jennifer Abbott, Mark Achbar, Jane Akre, Raymond L. Anderson


In the mid-1800s, corporations began to be recognized as individuals by U.S. courts, granting them unprecedented rights. The Corporation, a documentary by filmmakers Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott and author Joel Bakan, delves into that legal standard, essentially asking: if corporations were people, what kind of people would they be? Applying psychiatricSee more details below


In the mid-1800s, corporations began to be recognized as individuals by U.S. courts, granting them unprecedented rights. The Corporation, a documentary by filmmakers Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott and author Joel Bakan, delves into that legal standard, essentially asking: if corporations were people, what kind of people would they be? Applying psychiatric principles and FBI forensic techniques, and through a series of case studies, the film determines that this entity, the corporation, which has an increasing power over the day-to-day existence of nearly every living creature on earth, would be a psychopath. The case studies include a story about how two reporters were fired from Fox News for refusing to soft-pedal a story about the dangers of a Monsanto product given to dairy cows, and another about Bolivian workers who banded together to defend their rights to their own water supply. The pervasiveness of corporate influence on our lives is explored through an examination of efforts to influence behavior, including that of children. The filmmakers interview leftist figures like Michael Moore, Howard Zinn, Naomi Klein, and Noam Chomsky, and give representatives from companies Burson Marsteller, Disney, Pfizer, and Initiative Media a chance to relay their own points-of-view. The Corporation won the Best Documentary World Cinema Audience Award at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
If Academy Awards were given for films most likely to start arguments at dinner tables, this hot-button polemic would have won the 2005 Oscar hands down. It begins with the revelation that, according to a Supreme Court ruling, a corporation must be considered a person rather than an entity. Under this definition, reasons profiler Robert Hare, corporations can be categorized as psychopathic because they exhibit a personality disorder: that of single-mindedly pursuing their objectives without regard for the people in and around them. This observation becomes the jumping-off point for directors Jennifer Abbot and Mark Achbar, who present a dizzying succession of talking heads and stock shots to make the case that the corporate world is responsible for just about every bad thing that happens on the planet (and above it, if you count the diminishing ozone layer). These evil corporations, we're told over and over, are systemically depleting the earth's resources and robbing future generations, in order to enrich themselves in the present. Dutifully trotted out to make this case are left-wing torchbearers Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore, as well as "responsible" corporate figures such as Interface's Roy Anderson. Predictably, the filmmakers take shots at all the Usual Suspects, from George W. Bush to Kathie Lee Gifford, to make their guys look noble and everyone else ridiculous. The end result is almost comically one-sided, although there are half-hearted attempts at balance in the occasional interpolation of remarks by free-market advocates such as Milton Friedman. There's something to be learned here, even if the directors take the attitude of scolds. If nothing else, The Corporation is provocative, and it certainly merits viewing by anyone with even a scintilla of interest in humanity's well-being.
All Movie Guide - Richie Unterberger
It's not easy to make an entertaining documentary -- running nearly two and a half hours, no less -- about a subject that most audiences find too depressing, challenging, and complex to foster engagement. Remarkably, The Corporation does just that, its achievement all the more laudable for taking on a topic whose very nature is amorphous and hard to identify. As the title indicates, that topic is the corporation itself -- that faceless but omnipresent body that, in the guise of countless business and manufacturing organizations, exerts massive influence over modern industrial life. The left-leaning politics of the filmmakers are apparent, but never in a dogmatic way, as they break up the movie into numerous sections diagnosing and offering prognoses for the corporation, as if that entity was a psychiatric patient. To no surprise, the corporation comes off roughly equivalent to the most disturbed mentally ill individuals, acting without guilt, shame, or consideration of consequences that include environmental devastation, disregard for personal and legal rights, and wanton exploitation of third-world peoples and resources (and much more, but a complete list would necessitate several capsule reviews). Sound dry? It isn't, because the filmmakers cannily employ witty graphics, stock footage, and above all, fascinating interviews to illustrate the history of the growth of the destructive power of corporations, fast-paced and well edited. The interviewees include some of the usual suspects you'd expect to show up in such a film -- Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, and Howard Zinn, for instance -- but many more less celebrated figures comment, sometimes guardedly and sometimes surprisingly frankly, on the monstrous but relatively anonymous behavior corporations generate. Some of them, one suspects, end up giving away more than they really want to. What's even more chilling than the environmental damage and human exploitation that corporations wreak is the guileless, almost gleefully willful co-option of some of the interviewees into the corporate process, like the university students whose studies are actually "sponsored" and paid for by corporations; the Shell executive who claims that he shares the same goals as protesters against his company's environmental policies; or the guy who makes a living being a deceitful corporate infiltrator-spy of sorts. In this way, it's suggested that part of the corporate malady is the human character itself. It's a depressing, if informative and thought-provoking, prognosis, though ameliorated slightly by a more hopeful closing section documenting some pockets of resistance to the corporate danger, most movingly through a carpet manufacturer who actually seems sincerely dedicated to making his business more ecologically responsible.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Zeitgeist Films
[Wide Screen]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Closed Caption; 16:9 anamorphic transfer, enhanced for widescreen TVs; "Q's and A's:" video interviews with the filmmakers from radio, TV and theaters, including segments from CNN Financial, WNYC, WBAI, and Air America; Trailers for The Corporation and Manufacturing Consent; Janeane Garofolo interviews wrtier Joel Bakan on Air America's Majority Report; Two filmmaker audio commentaries; Grassroots marketing presentation; English descriptive audio for the visually impaired; Optional Spanish, French and English subtitles

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Jane Akre Participant
Raymond L. Anderson Participant
Joe Badaracco Participant
Maude Barlow Participant
Mark Barry Participant
Elain Bernard Participant
Edwin Black Participant
Carlton Brown Participant
Christopher Barrett Participant
Luke McCabe Participant
Peter Drucker Participant
Samuel Epstein Participant
Andrea Finger Participant
Milton Friedman Participant
Sam Gibara Participant
Richard Grossman Participant
Robert Hare Participant
Gabriel Herbas Participant
Lucy Hughes Participant
Ira Jackson Participant
Charles Kernaghan Participant
Robert Keyes Participant
Mark Kingwell Participant
Tom Kline Participant
Chris Komisarjevsky Participant
Susan Linn Participant
Robert Monks Participant
Mark Moody-Stuart Participant
Oscar Olivera Participant
Jonathon Ressler Participant
Jeremy Rifkin Participant
Anita Roddick Participant
Vandana Shiva Participant
Clay Timon Participant
Michael Walker Participant
Robert Weissman Participant
S.S. Wilson Participant
Irving Wladawsky-Berger Participant
Mary Zepernick Participant
Howard Zinn Participant
Mikela J. Mikael Narrator
Noam Chomsky Interviewee
Naomi Klein Interviewee
Michael Moore Interviewee

Technical Credits
Jennifer Abbott Director,Editor
Mark Achbar Director,Cinematographer,Executive Producer,Screenwriter
Joel Bakan Screenwriter
Harold Crooks Screenwriter
Rolf Cutts Cinematographer
Cari Green Co-producer
Jeff Koffman Cinematographer
Nathan Neumer Co-producer
Leonard J. Paul Score Composer
Velcrow Ripper Musical Direction/Supervision,Sound/Sound Designer
Tom Shandel Co-producer
Bart Simpson Producer
Kirk Tougas Cinematographer

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Scene Index

Side #1 -- The Movie
1. What Is a Corporation? [6:27]
2. Birth [4:25]
3. A Legal "Person" [5:03]
4. Externalities [2:12]
5. Case Histories [22:21]
6. The Pathology of Commerce [:48]
7. Monstrous Obligations [5:33]
8. Mindset [7:33]
9. Trading on 9/11 [2:10]
10. Boundary Issues [6:39]
11. Basic Training [9:24]
12. Perception Management [2:17]
13. Like a Good Neighbour [3:05]
14. A Private Celebration [3:38]
15. Triumph of the Shill [2:39]
16. Advancing the Front [5:06]
17. Unsettling Accounts [10:58]
18. Expansion Plans [4:01]
19. Taking the Right Side [6:25]
20. Hostile Takeover [2:42]
21. Democracy Ltd. [8:25]
22. Psycho Therapies [16:45]
23. Prognosis [2:49]
24. Credits [2:17]

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