It wasn’t supposed to be like this: a Starbucks every coupla miles; McDonald’s, Taco Bells, KFCs and Burger Kings facing off across countless city and suburban street corners; bland-boxed Wal-Marts choking the diversity out of cities all across the land and corporate logos plastered everywhere like acne on an eighteen-year old. Yet, here we are and… oh, excuse me.
“This review is brought to you by Film Threat: Truth in Entertainment.” (We gotta pay the bills too, you know.)
“This Land Is Your Land” tells the story of how and why corporations have run amok in America and how, unbridled, they threaten to destroy the very fabric of our society. That’s a lot to ask in one documentary as opposed to, say, an entire mini-series, but directors Lori Cheatle and Daisy Wright do a pretty decent job of explaining the key checkpoints in this insidious, kudzu-like process. No one step, the film argues, is as important as the legal precedent granting corporations all of the same rights, particularly when it comes to freedom of speech, as the people they employ, while giving them less of the corresponding responsibilities. Thus unhindered by the need to, say, tell the truth in their advertising, the rush to conglomeration was on.
The film reminds us once again of the dangers inherent in our country’s increasing homogenization, whether that’s something as tangible as the snuffing out of local businesses and the jobs they provide, or as intangible as the resulting damage to the citizens’ souls. The film warns us again about the lack of competition and the narrowing of diverse viewpoints brought about by relentless corporate mergers. It expounds on the damage done to local economies when globalization means factory closings, unemployment and an ever-increasing disparity between the CEO “haves” and the workforce “have-nots.”
The above-mentioned usual suspects take their lumps, as do such boilerplate villains as Nike for its well-documented exploitation of workers and such new poster boys for corporate greed as Enron and Worldcom.
“This Land Is Your Land” might seem like a socialist’s wet dream at first glance, but it’s more sophisticated than that. For tempting though it must have been to take pot shots at the current administration, Cheatle and Wright instead carefully make the case that this situation has been a rising source of tension since the days of our nation’s founding.
While the film offers up a few isolated instances of people or grassroots organizations that have had some limited successes in slowing down corporate America’s rush to profit or bust, it is ultimately long on the hand-wringing and short on suggestions on what to do about the problem. As such, though the wry and sardonic “This Land Is Your Land” makes for good agit-prop political theater, its inability to offer up solutions or even any real hope makes it ultimately just as depressing as the groundbreaking of yet another new Wal-Mart.