Friday, November 18, 2005

REVIEW: Go see Wal-Mart documentary at Images on Sunday/Monday


"Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices"
Images Cinema:
Friday (today): 2:30 p.m.
Sunday: 8:45 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 21, 5 p.m.

Earlier posts:

What choice are you making when you shop at the Wal-Mart in North Adams, or Bennington, Vt., or Pittsfield?

I just finished watching last night a new documentary film released this week by Robert Greenwald, the political-progressive filmmaker responsible for "Outfoxed" and "Uncovered." This time his subject is Wal-Mart. "It's meant to
be the beginning of a long campaign to change Wal-Mart," the Hollywood producer/director says in a commentary which is part of the DVD.

The film chronicles Wal-Mart's anti-labor activities, its alleged condoning and operation of sweat shop-style factories in China, how the arrival of a Wal-Mart in a rural community leads to the closing of family-run businesses, dozens and dozens of violent crimes in Wal-Mart parking lots, and hard facts and figures about Wal-Mart employees taking public assistance such as food stamps and government health-care benefits because of their low wages.

The film uses clips of Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott to set up these various issues, and is narrated in the voices and faces of dozens of ex-Wal-Mart employees, including some low-level executives.

It struck me as an example of the kind of large-scale investigative journalism that some of America's best newspapers have historically done. However, Wal-Mart spends millions of dollars on pre-printed advertising inserts in most of America's newspapers, so it's a challenging story for them to undertake.

Greenwald has been distributing the DVD via individuals and I purchased a copy which I've loaned to Images Cinema. The 1-1/2-hour film will be shown at 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 21 at 8:45 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 20. There is no admission charge, but you can make a voluntary donation to Images. If enough people miss these screenings and want to see the documentary, it is possible Images will schedule one or more additional screenings.

The film makes no overt judgments beyond the choices of who it interviews. It merely presents views on the impact of Wal-Mart on communities, on Chinese workers, on employees and on goverments which provide development tax breaks and public-assistance to Wal-Mart workers, with the prime beneficiaries being Wal-Mart stockholders.

The subtitle of the film: "Wal-Mart: The high cost of low prices," says it all. What are we willing as a nation to do to be able to have low prices? What is lost in the process? Locally, what was the long-term impact of North Adams permitting a Wal-Mart? Should North Adams or Adams allow a replacement super Wal-Mart to be built? You may feel differently after you see this film.


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