This Land Is Your Land

Directed by Lori Cheatle & Daisy Wright

This Land Is Your Land still

2004, 82 min, Video

In their profoundly humanist documentary film This Land Is Your Land (2004), Lori Cheatle and Daisy Wright explore the pervasive influence corporations are exerting on life in America. In archival footage and recorded testimonies (the filmmakers traveled across the country interviewing people for more than three years), they trace the impact of corporate power on individual lives, the social fabric, and the very principles of democracy. In the first part of the film, Cheatle and Wright document the ubiquitous presence of corporate logos as well as our susceptibility to branding and the extent to which such forces are internalized: one interviewee declares that she is going to be herself, “not this walking, talking billboard,” all the while wearing an Old Navy T-shirt and a Nike baseball cap.

Gradually moving on to graver issues, the filmmakers address the consequences of foreign outsourcing, the dwindling resources of the middle class, and the increasing gap between rich and poor. A former paper mill worker and union leader testifies to the dramatic consequences of losing his job a few years shy of retirement and the subsequent struggle to make ends meet by juggling multiple low–paying jobs with no health–care benefits. In their historical examination of corporate power, Cheatle and Wright contend that the founding of the United States actually sprang from anticorporate sentiment: colonial merchants launched the Boston Tea Party as a protest not only of British taxation policies but of the unfair trade advantages granted to Britain’s East India Company.

At the heart of Cheatle and Wright’s film are the stories of individual people who have beaten the odds in their battles against corporate dominion. Father Tryphon, abbot of a Russian Orthodox monastery in Washington State, recounts his battle with Starbucks over the monks’ production of a “Christmas Blend” coffee roast (the term had been trademarked to the corporation). San Francisco activist Mark Kasky won the right to bring a false–advertising lawsuit against Nike, which the company had tried to defend by claiming protection under the first amendment right of free speech. Essentially optimistic in their viewpoint, Cheatle and Wright fall squarely on the side of David taking on the corporate Goliath, issuing a celebratory acknowledgment of small acts of resistance and an impassioned call to action.