2020, Movies

The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel (2020, Jennifer Abbott, Joel Bakan)

I saw the original Corporation sometime back in the aughts. I have no idea whether or not I would like it now.

This film is infuriating, both because of the problems in the world it reminds us of, and because of how unfocused it is. In many ways, it feels like two movies, the sequel to The Corporation and a pro-progressive “Let’s fight back!” cheer-leading rally. (The latter is significantly weaker than the former, as you might imagine.)

Much like (my memory of) the first film, this is a slightly weird film because it is Canadian but very much about the US (and the US as a proxy for the world). I hadn’t remembered that initially, but then the parade of Canadians reminded me. If they had made a film about Canada it would be so much less interesting.

Whatever I might think now of the original idea of diagnosing “The Corporation” as a “psychopath”, this film does a good job of highlighting what’s wrong with the US’ current form of capitalism (and, to a lesser extent, the world’s). As usual with these films, there is a conflation of what is happening in the US with the world, which is problematic. But the gist of the film’s message, for its first portion, is accurate: the new face of corporations post Great Recession is a con. There’s a lot of cogent analysis as the various problems we are currently facing, like tax avoidance and climate change. It’s fairly well put together.

Where I have a problem is in the film’s latter part, in which two problematic things happen. The first is that the scope of the film expands drastically, seemingly as a response to the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests. This might work in a TV documentary of many episodes but not in a film this short.

The second problem is the advocacy the film does for progressives in general while highlighting some specific individuals (including someone who they don’t mention what he actually does). First, I am a firm believer in killing your idols and I strongly believe that people will only disappoint you. But, more importantly, I’m not sure this is the point of the film. Sure, it should end on some optimism but I’m not sure mayoral races are within the scope of the project.

For me, the latter part of the film is such a mess that it almost makes me forget about how effective (albeit one-sided) the first part of the film is. And that’s a huge problem.

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