Understanding the modern corporation through film

In the past decade, documentary film has become increasingly important as a way of exposing oppressive and exploitative organizational practices and highlighting issues related to corporate social responsibility.  Recent examples include films like Miss Representation (2011), which focuses on the role of media corporations and advertisers in shaping the body image of girls and women in ways which constrain their participation in public life and leadership, and Fed Up (2014), which shines the spotlight on the food industry in causing America’s obesity epidemic.  These recent successes build on earlier films like Supersize Me (2004), which prompted changes in McDonald’s retailing strategy.

Professor Emma Bell’s research focuses on the indirect yet significant effect that documentary feature films can have on public perceptions of the responsibilities of business.  Her research also looks at the way that corporations have responded to the use of film as a way of holding corporations to account.  A further aspect of her work involves looking at the way that the film industry is changing, through the rise of accessible digital technologies which have expanded opportunities for film production, coupled with the development of innovative distribution methods involving social media to reach non-traditional audiences.

In 2015, Emma attended the Academy of Management http://aom.org/ Annual Meeting, in Vancouver, Canada, where she hosted a screening of a new cut of the movie, The Corporation (2004) http://www.thecorporation.com.  This pioneering Canadian documentary film significantly challenged the way we think about the modern corporation.  Featuring interviews with corporate insiders and critics including Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Milton Friedman, Howard Zinn, Vandana Shiva and Michael Moore, the movie put the corporation on the psychiatrist’s couch and explored its pathological pursuit of profit.  The film went on to win 26 international awards, and the book on which it was based became a widely-translated bestseller.  During her visit Emma met up with the film writer, University of British Columbia Professor of Law, Joel Bakan.  You can read her recently published interview with Joel, where he talks about his motivations in making the movie and writing the book, the response they generated, and the changing nature of the modern corporation since the film was made http://jmi.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/11/24/1056492615616872.abstract


Emma Bell teaches a final year undergraduate module at Keele, ‘Management, Organisation and Media’, which is based on her research in this area and draws on her book, Reading Management and Organisation in Film (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).

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