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Are Corporations Psychotic?

16 Mar, 2005 By: Jessica Wolf



What if you took the behaviors of a corporation — which under American law holds the same rights and privileges as an individual — and compared it to a public health checklist defining the actions of a psychopath?

As Canadian filmmakers Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbot and Joel Bakan discovered and reveal in their critically acclaimed documentary, The Corporation, those behaviors line right up.

The title streets April 5 from Zeitgeist Films.

“We're trying to provoke debate and discussion — to take this thing, the corporation, that we take completely for granted, and try to make it seem as strange as it has come to seem to me and to Joel and to Jennifer,” co-director Achbar said.

To stir the pot, he's designed the DVD release to allow viewers to dive deeper into the myriad issues his film unearths regarding the powerful, protected and often-destructive force that is a corporation.

The second DVD of the double-disc set holds nearly six hours of additional interview footage from the 40 subjects Achbar and his team filmed for the documentary. Interviewees include heads of transnational corporations, investigative journalists, political activists, scholars and controversial filmmaker Michael Moore.

“We had a wealth of resources who had a lot to say about a lot of topics and some of those things didn't fit [into the final cut of the film],” Achbar said. “It's not so much intended for people to sit and watch from beginning to end but to sort of explore according to their interests.”

Disc two offers multiple points of entry for viewers looking to explore topics the film raises.

The “Let's hear more from …” segment offers thumbnails of the 40 interview subjects and connects viewers to more footage from each person specifically, such as Ray Anderson. The CEO of a previously wasteful textile company, Interface, Anderson now is now advocate for preserving natural resources and talks to other corporations about how to become self-sustaining entities.

Viewers also can navigate the vast amount of extra footage through topic sections such as “Branding,” “Corporate Crime,” “Ethics and Values,” “Marketing,” “Perception Management” and “Privatization.”

“Wherever your interests lie, you can go deeper into those subjects,” Achbar said.

Achbar also said he realizes the film can be disturbing, if not downright appalling, for people hearing the stories for the first time of a Bolivian community whose water supply was privatized. Citizens were charged a huge portion of their meager weekly salaries for water and barred from collecting rainwater or gathering water in any other way. Another disturbing tale is the story of farms in India where a corporation introduced a genetically manufactured seed that would destroy the ground for future farming after one crop yield.

For that, he designed the “More Strategies for Change” topic on the DVD, which focuses on positive steps corporations and the public can take to prevent some of the more disastrous byproducts of a corporate-driven society.

Another section follows up on what happened to two Fox News investigative reporters interviewed for the film. The two lost their jobs for refusing to falsify evidence and news reports — at their superiors' behest — on an investigation of Monsanto Corp. and its use of growth hormones.

Disc one offers two commentary tracks, one with Achbar and co-director Abbot and the other with writer Bakan, who also wrote the book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power.

“We gave Joel his own, because he's got a lot to say and he's so interesting,” Achbar said.

The filmmakers are Canadian, which gave them a different perspective on the subject, Achbar said.

“We have this kind of critical distance,” he said. “We [Canadians] are very intricately affected by the United States, but we have very little ability to affect the United States.”

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