McLibel Documentary Inspires

Matt Wasserman Jun 15, 2005

In recent years leftist documentaries have become a genre unto themselves, with the accompanying visual and narrative conventions. Those films that don’t feature hand-held shots of protests too often ape the style of Michael Moore.

In bringing the story of the “McLibel Two” to film, director Franny Armstrong has managed to be muckraking and occasionally inspiring without being derivative. While much of the material will be unfamiliar to non-British audiences, Armstrong’s deft and often funny use of tactics such as covertly shot footage and court reenactments – directed by legendary filmmaker Ken Loach – keeps the film from getting either confusing or bogged down in exposition.

McLibel makes a devastating case against the effects of McDonald’s on the environment, animals, public health and workers. As Fast-Food Nation author Eric Schlosser says, McDonald’s does not offer cheap food but expensive food, food too expensive for our society to afford. Yet the film is not without hope.

Sued for distributing leaflets by a corporation used to its opponents backing down, a single father and a part-time bartender managed to engineer “the biggest corporate PR disaster in history” and helped bolster a grassroots campaign against the fast-food chain. The actions of Dave Morris and Helen Steel in turning their three-year long libel case into a public airing of McDonald’s dirty laundry is living proof that ordinary people still have the power to resist multinational corporations. One, two, many McLibels.

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