UPFRONT: The Corporation on the Couch

What would happen if large business entities were subjected to the standard checklists employed by psychiatrists and psychologists? The Corporation, screening at this month’s New Zealand International Film Festival does just that.
“Canadian filmmakers Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, along with screenwriter Joel Bakan, have hit upon very clever device. They take textbook definition of psychopath and proceed to show how perfectly corporations fit the diagnosis. Hilarious and chilling, The Corporation wrangles international finance to the ground and shows how documentary at its best can let us know more than personality journalism ever can,” writes B Ruby Rich in the San Francisco Bay Guardian.The corporation was relatively insignificant entity 150 years ago. In just 100 years it has become the world’s dominant institution – replacing the Church, the Monarchy and the Communist Party in other times and places – with pervasive presence in all our lives. In this entertaining documentary, Achbar and Abbott team up with writer Joel Bakan to examine the far-reaching repercussions of the corporation’s increasing pre-eminence.
Based on Bakan’s book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, the film is quest to reveal the corporation’s inner workings, history, controversial impacts and possible futures. It features interviews with American dissident Noam Chomsky, filmmaker Michael Moore, historian and activist Howard Zinn and many others.
In the context of contemporary debates on business ethics and values and the desirability of ‘triple bottom line’ accounting, this film makes salient, and sobering, viewing.To the filmmakers’ credit, The Corporation does more than simply document the negative consequences of big business activities – it offers window to another way. The world’s largest commercial carpet and interior fabrics manufacturer, American-based Interface Inc, is held up as prime example of corporation with conscience. Interface’s founder and chief executive Ray Anderson tells of his ‘epiphany’ and the subsequent re-engineering of his firm to reduce its ecological ‘footprint’ (the impact of the organisation’s activities on the environment – its resource consumption, pollution and so on). Anderson’s management strategies and practices are at the forefront of the corporate sustainability movement. (A detailed look at Anderson’s philosophy featured in Management’s August 2002 issue at www.management.co.nz/archives)
For those who prefer to remain blissfully ignorant of the historical, environmental and social downsides of big business, this movie is not for you. For the rest, at the risk of suffering an overdose of industrial angst – get your tickets now!
The annual, nationwide International Film Festival begins in Auckland July 9-25 and moves to other main centres through July and August. The Corporation will screen in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Palmerston North and Hamilton. For session dates and times check the Festival website www.nzff.co.nz.

* Lucky readers in Auckland and Wellington will get free tickets for two to see The Corporation at theatre in their city screening the film, courtesy of The NZ International Film Festival and Management magazine. Follow the link on the home page of this website…

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