Harold Crooks’ documentary film credits include: Co-director and writer, Surviving Progress, 2011, feature documentary, executive produced by Martin Scorsese and Mark Achbar, produced by Cinémaginaire Inc. with National Film Board of Canada and Alliance Vivafilm, shown in festivals worldwide, released theatrically in over 30 North American cities, broadcast by BBC 4, Arte and HBO Canada among others. Writer, Karsh Is History, 2009, produced by Productions Grand Nord (Montreal) with participation of Bravo TV and The Portrait Gallery of Canada, Best Canadian Film at the 27th FIFA. Writer, Anthrax War, 2009, produced by Galafilm (Montreal) and Studio International (Paris), nominated for a Prix Europa. Writer, Pax Americana and the Weaponization of Space, 2009, feature documentary produced by Lowik (Montreal), Coptor (Toronto) and In Fine Films (Paris) with participation of ARTE, CBC and SRC, distributed theatrically by KinoSmith. Co-writer with Mark Achbar of the narration of The Corporation, 2003.
Since a corporation is legally defined as a person, it makes some sense to ask what kind of person a corporation might be. The answer offered by ''The Corporation,'' a smart, brooding documentary directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, is: not a very nice one.
The film, which opens at Film Forum today, half-mockingly offers a psychiatric diagnosis based on a list of abuses that arise from the relentless pursuit of profit. The point is not that individual companies pollute the environment, hurt animals, exploit workers and commit accounting fraud, but that such outrages are a result of the essential personality traits of the corporate life form. These behaviors are symptoms arising from a list of pathologies that includes ''disregard for the well-being of others,'' ''inability to form lasting relationships'' and ''deceitfulness.'' A psychiatrist who has advised the F.B.I. declares that the corporation has ''all the characteristics of a prototypical psychopath.''
This scary diagnosis, backed up by sinister soundtrack music, is supported by talking-head testimony from activists, a few C.E.O.'s and scholars (including Noam Chomsky, the subject of Mr. Achbar's 1992 film, ''Manufacturing Consent,'' with Peter Wintonick as co-director). ''The Corporation,'' based on a book by the Canadian law professor Joel Bakan, is divided into cutely titled chapters (''Democracy Ltd.,'' ''Boundary Issues'') that link particular cases of capitalist misbehavior with larger issues. The structure is a bit unwieldy: some of the case studies, fascinating though they are, bog down the main argument in unassimilable details, while the argument itself sometimes threatens to float away into abstraction.
But the film's formal inelegance is a sign of its seriousness, and also of the complexity of its chosen subject. The topic, after all, is intricate and global, and Mr. Achbar and Ms. Abbott address it with spiky, dogged intelligence, if also with hectoring persistence. Corporate power is at once self-evident and elusive, mundane and esoteric, aggressive and insinuating. In the view of the filmmakers and most of their interview subjects, it is always bad and never to be trusted. The imperative to expand makes the corporation a fundamentally predatory being, gobbling up everything in its path -- natural resources, populations of potential laborers and consumers, public spaces and private aspirations -- without conscience or accountability.
In other words, ''The Corporation'' is a monster movie, and nobody, faced with so much alarming testimony, would want to defend Godzilla as he smashes buildings and tramples streetcars. But like other, less sophisticated efforts to articulate a comprehensive anticorporate ideology, this movie occasionally ensnares itself in contradictions it does not quite acknowledge.Continue reading the main story