Monday, September 8, 2008

Business ethics at the Toronto International Film Festival

At the moment, here in Toronto, we are in the midst of the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which is one of the world's premiere festivals , up there with Cannes, Venice and others. The city is alive with movie folk, big name actors and directors, and excited film fanatics. It's a fun place to be.

Regular readers of the blog and some of our other work will know that we are enthusiastic advocates of the role of movies in enlightening us about various aspects of business ethics. And TIFF 08 is no exception, with a bunch of exciting new films that get to grips with some of the social, ethical and environmental challenges facing contemporary business across the globe. We'll talk about some of these movies in a moment.

But it's not just the movies that are putting corporate responsibility in the limelight at TIFF this year. With increasing commercialisation and corporate sponsorship of the festival, some critics are complaining that the one time "people's festival" has been taken over by big business interests. With priority entry at some venues for sponsors, just flashing your Visa card (Visa is one of the main sponsors) can get you early seating and a place in the special lounge with drinks and refreshments while everyone else has to queue outside. Understandably, not everyone is over-enamoured with the implications of these acts of "good citizenship" by corporations - or at least not when there are such strings attached.

But it's tough balancing act for arts organizations when governments such as the incumbent Canadian Conservative Government, make cuts to arts funding leaving the private sector as the next obvious port of call. If arts organizations go in this direction, the challenge is obviously to work out a relationship that creates meaningful value for both partners - and takes account of the various stakeholders of each institution. It's a difficult proposition, but an important one to get right if these partnerships are to be sustainable. TIFF has clearly had the first warning shot fired across its bows and festivals around the world would do well to make sure they systematically incorporate these concerns into their subsequent planning.

But onto the films...

This year's line up has a few hot new documentaries that look worth checking out, including these (for more details check out the full program at

Food, Inc. directed by Robert Kenner explores how modern developments in food production pose risks to our health and the environment. According the TIFF 08 programme:

Food, Inc. carefully dissects the cozy relationships between business and government in both political parties. In opposition to these powerful interests, we meet people from all walks of life, from a Republican mother who lost her two-year-old son to E. coli poisoning to the founder of Stonyfield Farm Organic Yogurt, who flouts conventional left-wing dogma by seeing a positive side to Wal-Mart.
Upstream Battle, directed by Ben Kempas, about Pacific salman, Native Americans, hydro-electric dams, and water rights in Northern California and Oregon (see the trailer here):
"Upstream Battle is wonderfully nuanced, acknowledging the complexity of the situation. The other stakeholders in this ecosystem include farmers who rely on the water for irrigation; the neighbouring tribes of Yurok, Karuk and Klamath; and commercial fishermen who catch the salmon at sea. The film manages to humanize those on all sides, including the corporate employees whose own livelihoods are in flux over changing owners."
And for a dose of individual resistance to organizational corruption, Yes Madam, Sir, directed by Megan Doneman tells the story of Kiran Bedi, the first woman to join the Indian Police Service, former head of Tihar Jail, Asia's largest, and notoriously corrupt and overcrowded prison, and latterly resident at the UN in New York.

"Kiran Bedi is arguably India's most controversial daughter, both revered by her supporters and reviled as a self-centred publicity seeker by her critics. In this captivating examination of her life, Australian documentarian Megan Doneman shows that whatever people may think of Bedi personally, there is no disputing her professional achievements. "
We'll try and catch one or two during the festival, but anyone that has seen these or who has more details, do drop us a comment. And if you're not in Toronto, keep an eye open for local release announcements ... and fof course or other new films that might be of interest. We're always keen to hear about new movies to feature. But let us know who you're being sponsored by first!!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have some thoughts you want to share about this post? We would love to hear them, so comment here (all comments will be moderated to prevent spam and random acts of advertising)...