#LDF2020 Review — The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel

The Lunenburg Doc Fest is underway — all online, of course — and I’ll be posting about what I see with the hashtag #LDF2020. 

Directed by Jennifer Abbott and Joel Bakan | 105 min 

The Corporation (2003) was an left-leaning, eye-opening documentary that explored the idea of corporations having all the rights of the individual. And when the filmmakers examined the personality of that individual, they found them to be a psychopath. It was entirely compelling framing of how corporate entities have taken over.

This new film is tells a no less chilling story, no less well, though it feels more like a call to action, more politicized. It’s narrated by Charles Officer, who occasionally sounds like Werner Herzog, in the best possible way.

Creative capitalism, rebranding corporations as now having a conscience, because that’s what the public expects. Except it’s just another seduction. Corporate elites quote profit-making and virtue, while the examples of banks like JP Morgan and how they destroyed communities and yet market themselves as investors in rescuing cities like Detroit. Or BP, where they made cuts that may have led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The bottom line of investor profits always trumps care.

Then we get into new corporate values brought on by big tech, companies like Google and Facebook that have the financial heft of nations — values of narcissism and materialism. Companies step into the void left by government, and when government steps away from governing, when they privatize public presences like utilities, corporations step in.

And then, when corporations put on a smiling face, a progressive face, we trust them more, even while those selfsame corporations break rules, ignore regulations, and destroy the environment.

The film ties together the wild economic inequities of life, the chasm between the rich and the poor, and the recent arrival of the coronavirus.  All this has led to a rise in corruption, a breakdown in social cohesion, and a rise in right-wing anger. It’s also led to movements like Occupy, the grassroots urban resistance, new progressive politicians, and putting black and indigenous rights to the forefront.

So, while in so many ways it seems we’re fucked, there’s still hope.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.