Anti-Wal Mart film goes down well at Berlinale
15 February 2006, BERLIN - Ask any American about Wal Mart and they will almost certainly have a story to tell about shopping in the world's biggest retailer.
15 February 2006
BERLIN - Ask any American about Wal Mart and they will almost certainly have a story to tell about shopping in the world's biggest retailer.
But in a new documentary, "Wal Mart: The High Cost of Low Price," director and producer Robert Greenwald has assembled a cast of former and current Wal Mart employees to take a scathing look at the business practices behind the giant retailer's corporate strategy.
In the film, which has been screened to critical acclaim at this year's Berlin Film Festival, the employees set out a string of damning allegations about working conditions at the company and how it sets about undercutting rivals.
But the film also details how local governments fall over themselves to secure a Wal Mart store in their region by offering the company generous subsidies.
"Wal-Mart is the poster child for the worst in corporate behaviour," Greenwald said after his film screened to enthusiastic audiences in Berlin. More than 2,000 Wal-Mart stores are located outside the US.
With low wages and prohibitively high company health insurance, a former employee in the film related how when she questioned managers she was told: "If you can't do it we will get someone else to do it."
Wal-Mart is also known for being fiercely anti-union and "Wal Mart: The High Cost of Low Price" also details the steps the company takes to ensure organized labour has little say in its stores.
Equally disturbing are the claims about how women and black employees say have been they treated by the company.
When a former black female employee interviewed in the film asked why she was missing out on a promotion, she said she asked a manager was it because she was a woman or black. The manager, she said replied: "Well two out of two ain't bad."
Needless to say, the Greenwald movie, which has secured considerable interest from both TV companies and film distributors around the world, has triggered a major counter-assault from Wal Mart, which has dismissed the movie as propaganda.
The retailer is in the process of supporting a new film which they hope will cast the company in a better light. It is to be called: "Why Wal-Mart Works: And Why That Drives Some People Crazy."
However, Greenwald's film is also another sign of the current vigour of documentary film-making in the US.
In particular, it follows hard on the heels of the success of Michael Moore's look at America's fascination with guns in "Bowling for Columbine" and his film on US President George W. Bush in "Fahrenheit 9/11."
Greenwald's Wal Mart movie also comes in the wake of a documentary by Morgan Spurlock called "Super Size Me" on the effects of eating McDonald hamburgers.
Greenwald also previously made Outfoxed, a documentary looking at the operations of Rupert Murdoch's US Fox News channel.
Subject: German news