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DVD Review: “Wal-Mart annihilates communities”

Seth Wright | Nexus | Lifestyles | January 23rd, 2006

VICTORIA (CUP) -- Robert Greenwald's new documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price is a searing account of the Wal-Mart empire. The hard-hitting documentary follows the footsteps of Michael Moore and the recent proliferation of fast-paced, easy-to-understand, leftist documentaries.

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low PriceGreenwald's documentary elicits strong emotions about how the powerful mega-corporation has devastated downtowns, neglected their workers, contracted manufacturing to deplorable Chinese sweatshops, and devastated sensitive eco-systems.

The various topics are explored systematically and present a jolting perspective of Wal-Mart practices. Unfortunately, the presentation of facts is too biased and the film's overproduction deters attention from the information.

"Gimme a W, gimme an A, gimme a L," yells the Wal-Mart manager to his gathered "associates" every morning before they file out onto the shop floor.

“It's totally humiliating," says one Quebec employee in the special feature on Canadian Wal-Mart outlets. She was an employee of the only North American store to succeed in unionization.

During the union organizing drive, Wal-Mart spied on its workers, intimidated pro-union employees, and threatened to close the store. The store was shut down the day after the Quebec labour relations board certified the union, but Wal-Mart denied it had anything to do with unionization.

Wal-Mart's record is terrible enough in itself, which leaves the viewer wondering why Greenwald presented the film in such a flashy, oversimplified manner.

The DVD comes with several special features. The best special features are definitely the numerous spoof commercials that mock Wal-Mart's real TV ads. They make Wal-Mart's appalling practices into a joke that may invite roll on the floor laughter.

On a more serious note, when a broad range of crimes, from auto theft to rape and murder, are committed in Wal-Mart's parking lot, the corporation responds by hiring more in-store security. They were found guilty of placing their own profit before the safety and lives of their workers and customers.

The documentary runs a little on the long side, at 97 minutes, but thankfully a condensed 20-minute version is included as part of the DVD's special features.
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