Oddly humorous despite all of its depressing revelations, Merchants of Doubt follows in the footsteps of other great social and political whistle-blowing documentaries; uncovering the corruption that plagues the tobacco, sugar and oil industries. Highlighting the regurgitation by said industries of the same accusations, tactics and power moves, Merchants of Doubt is a complicated, rigorous documentary which focuses on the way that the big bad corporations we love to hate use doubt as a manipulative tool. The art of manipulation, the re-occurrence of the same sinister faces and the delusions of the climate-change deniers all make up the majority of Merchants of Doubt. Director Robert Kenner shows the same determination he did with Food, Inc. in this angsty, angry capturing of America’s most unethical corporate crimes. With each new reveal you’re left feeling more and more depressed by what’s happening and more and more hopeless about anything ever changing. That said, I remember laughing my way through Merchants of Doubt more than anything else. Kenner shares Michael Moore’s dry with and ability to find the comedy in the lunacy he’s uncovering. Relying on a vast amount of archive and interview footage, our director has constructed a determined and bold piece of documentary cinema. I only wish Kenner had been present at the Sheffield Documentary Festival screening in order to expand on the making and creating of political documentary film.
Merchants of Doubt builds up a clear map of different industries and companies and proves how many familiar faces have jumped back and forth between each, over the last fifty years. It pokes fun at these individuals through its swift editing and expert use of archive footage. Merchants of Doubt is a layered piece of film-making, juggling several different types of violations – in danger of being over ambitious. Luckily it allows each different corrupt chapter enough time to prosper and expand until you find yourself drowning in vast and dangerously high amounts of corporate indecency. All about the negative and harmful impact of sowing seeds of doubt in citizens, societies and nations, Merchants of Doubt is a delightfully cynical but altogether discouraging account of American greed, power and betrayal. The film’s greatest triumph lies in its success in combining a serious, morbid subject with wit, humour and many a giggle. Those interviewed are varied and versatile but always passionate. Merchants of Doubt is shocking, political cinema but also an intelligent balance of light and shade.
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