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Focus on Film: Powell River Film Festival preview (The New Corporation)

In his latest review, Stephen J. Miller says the thought-provoking documentary raises questions

Do I know what I do, why I do it, where I do it, when I do it, how I do it, and do I like it? These were only some of my thoughts as I watched a compelling documentary on the influence of corporate America and how it controls or professes to control every aspect of our lives and democratic freedoms.

But first I want to make a comment on the marketing of a film. Once a film has been shot and edited, it is usually turned over to a distributor that has purchased the rights to distribute and market it to theatres and television. Distributors control the marketing message.

When I considered writing a review of The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel, I saw it was marketed as “the social branding of corporate America and how it limits our democratic freedoms.” I am not sure who came up with this as a description, however, after seeing the film, I question whether the filmmakers had intended that their point of view be focused on limiting democratic freedoms rather than how corporations socially brand themselves for the sake of the bottom line.

Made in BC by Joel Bakan and Jennifer Abbott, the filmmakers take a position that corporations in the 1970s, 80s and 90s only cared about the bottom line being profits to their shareholders. They now make the case that corporate social branding on a large scale is a recent phenomenon acting as a distraction to the general public and allowing corporations to continue returning maximum profits to their shareholders.

The film is in-depth and looks at large corporations and their relationship to governments and control of technology. Corporations lobby government lawmakers to enact legislation that allows for substantial tax breaks and also deregulation of safety standards whereby both of these initiatives ultimately increase the bottom-line profits for corporations and their shareholders.

The filmmakers point out that privatization of services such as medical care, education, incarceration of prisoners and ownership of utilities have reduced services and limited public participation in decision-making. This becomes a stretch for me since the public always questions whether governments or the private sector do a better job in quality of service and the bottom line.

Corporations use their platforms of social media to learn about the viewer and their buying habits and desires. Their messages profess values of caring, community and social connectivity. The filmmakers will make you think about which corporations you support, why you buy from them, what you buy and ultimately the agendas of these companies. Technology has been a revolution of change but how are we dealing with it, or, how is technology dealing with us? 

I recognize the end game for corporations is to promote their brand and get people to buy their product. Sometimes they do this through a message that they are socially responsible. However, ask yourself: What would the world look like if those mega corporations and billionaires decided to give nothing to charities or to causes which make the human condition better?

This documentary reinforces that we are in a three-way partnership between government, corporations and the people. The viewer will be inundated with interviews, images, theories and questions that will leave them thinking and asking themselves whether we are on the right track controlling progress and ultimately our future.

For all of these reasons I give this film three out five tugboats.

The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel (run time: 106 minutes) is one of 12 films playing online during Powell River Film Festival with showings available throughout BC any time, any day, from February 5 to 16.

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Stephen J. Miller is a producer and creative writer in feature films and television, and past owner of repertoire movie theatres.