TORONTO — The documentary — long seen as the domain of old beatniks and carrot-juice-drinking liberals — found a pair of unlikely champions at the Toronto Film Festival, with two works on the topic of global corporatization basking in critical praise and drawing surprisingly strong popular favor.
“The Corporation” is a 2½-hour doc on the proliferation of what is perhaps the world’s most dominant institution. “The Yes Men,” co-directed by “American Movie” helmer Chris Smith, focuses on a comedic guerrilla media battle against globalism.
Heading into the fest, even sales agents at Cinetic Media, didn’t expect the films to garner more than modest interest, and then only among the liberal literati.
Instead, “The Corporation” world premiere drew a capacity crowd at the Varsity Theater.
And when a doc about privatization and globalization gets a standing ovation, attention must be paid: Auds voted it second runner-up in the People’s Choice competition, behind another doc, Ron Mann’s “Go Further,” which chronicles the efforts of thesp Woody Harrelson and other activists to promote organic living, and Takeshi Kitano’s samurai saga “Zatoichi.”
“The Corporation” was directed by Mark Achbar (“Manufacturing Consent”) and Jennifer Abbott. Making the pic in the brand-obsessed 21st century was “like making a film about the church during the 1600s,” said Achbar.
With reality TV continuing to dominate network TV programming, Achbar said, “Movie theaters have become sort of alternative news channels” that tap into “a deep sense of unease about the corporation.”
Similar in theme if not in tone, “The Yes Men” chronicles precisely executed spoofs played upon the World Trade Organization by a group of impostors.
Smith, along with co-directors Sarah Price and Dan Ollman, show these “Yes Men” posing as WTO reps on air and at meetings: Mistakenly invited to a Finnish conference, they unveil a new kind of manager’s leisure suit — one that inflates an enormous golden phallus with a built-in TV camera “to monitor sweatshops.”
The Toronto audience was reduced to peals of laughter, and the film now has numerous offers pending for distribution deals.