The Corporation

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
The Corporation Movie Poster Image
Eye-opening docu on corporate power is timely, provocative.
  • NR
  • 2003
  • 145 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Instances of groups and individuals standing up to multinational corporations' attempts to privatize their land and resources. The power of one person or a small group of people to bring about constructive change in the face of powerful interests and multibillion dollar corporations. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Men and women from developing countries fight powerful multinational corporations and global entities such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to stop the privatization of their land and resources, and they win. The CEO of a major carpet manufacturer realizes that what he has been doing with his company, while profitable in the short term, has disastrous environmental consequences for future generations, and he undertakes steps to develop sustainability practices. Two investigative journalists refuse to compromise their integrity after their report detailing the harmful effects of bovine growth hormone is censored by Fox News and Monsanto. 

Violence

Footage of bodies being dumped in mass graves during the Holocaust. The dead body of a protestor in Bolivia is shown up close. Battles between protestors and police are shown, with tear gas, thrown bottles, arrests, fighting. 

Sex
Language

After a lengthy and poetic comparison of corporations to bald eagles, an economics professor laughs and then yells, "Bulls--t!" 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Corporation is a provocative 2003 documentary detailing the past and present of corporate power and influence and its effects on societies, the environment, and individuals. There are many disturbing images: a child with no eyes due to birth defects, mass graves during the Holocaust, battles between police and protestors, and the bloodied body of a teen boy slain by police during protests in Bolivia. An economics professor abruptly yells, "Bulls--t!" In great detail, this Oscar-winning documentary explains how the same amendment that ended slavery after the Civil War also declared corporations to be "people" in the 19th century and how, if corporations are indeed people, they most closely resemble psychotics in their regard for others and the world around them. Though this is the central idea, the documentary also presents the viewpoints of those who disagree with this assertion. Overall, this documentary will shock and encourage lots of discussion.

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What's the story?

In the 19th century, after the Civil War, the Supreme Court used the same amendment that outlawed slavery as justification to declare corporations to be "people." This 2003 documentary posits that if corporations are people, then their behavior most closely mirrors the behavior of psychopaths. The personal, societal, and environmental effects of the unchecked power of multinational corporations are discussed in great detail, as are their attempts to control people's access to information and to privatize resources such as water and even life itself. The history and growth of corporations also is detailed, as are the struggles of those who have attempted to fight their outsize influence. 

Is it any good?

THE CORPORATION is a must-see documentary for anyone concerned about the enormous influence of multinational corporations on just about every facet of our existence. Sweatshops, child labor, environmental destruction, product marketing to children, the limiting of people's access to information, and the privatization of the most fundamental resources -- and even the most basic building blocks of life itself -- are discussed in great detail, as are how brands are marketed to children and the sometimes shocking history of many corporations' relentless pursuit of profit and "the bottom line." 

Though clearly on the side of those who see corporations as monstrous entities destroying the planet, The Corporation does present the viewpoints of those who disagree with the central premises of the documentary. It also is not all doom and gloom; people from all over the planet concerned about the effects of corporations on their communities and resources talk of their successes in standing up to powerful multibillion-dollar interests. Since its release in 2003, The Corporation remains as relevant (if not more so) today as when it was first released. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about viewpoints and opinions in documentaries. What message were these filmmakers trying to communicate about corporations? Did they allow other viewpoints and opinions that differed from their own? 

  • How would this documentary have been different had it been made by those who believe corporations are a positive outgrowth of the free enterprise system that improve the lives of those who work for them? 

  • This documentary was released in 2003. Since that time, would you say that corporate power and influence have increased or lessened? 

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