The Corporation

Institute History

  • 2004 Sundance Film Festival


One of the hallmarks of great documentary practice is a film's ability to illuminate a forest, where once there were only trees. In their portrait of the corporation as a social institution, filmmakers Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott have done just this: mapped the contours and functions of a phenomenon so pervasive it can be difficult to see.

Taking recent corporate accounting scandals as a point of departure, the filmmakers trace the origins of the corporation as a publicly regulated institution to its present-day social predominance, dwarfing and influencing governments worldwide. Along the way, corporations' ideals and benefits are weighed side-by-side with their abuses and harms by speakers ranging from CEOs and marketing professionals to economists, activists, and social critics, including Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore.

Employing a wealth of archival resources, the film traces the elaborate history of the corporation, including bizarre links to Hitler's death camps and the emancipation of American slaves. Whimsically aping the forms of corporate public relations media, the film offers a wildly entertaining but ultimately alarming examination of the corporate phenomenon, in which virtually every human's life is enmeshed, but around which a broad public debate is just emerging.

— Shannon Kelley

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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