NEW DVDS With film, documentarian sets sights on Wal-Mart
Robert Greenwald's DVD projects have sold thousands of copies.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
HOLLYWOOD -- Documentarian Robert Greenwald makes no secret about where his allegiances lie. The filmmaker has skewered the Bush administration for embarking on the war in Iraq, the Republican Party for possible malfeasance in the 2000 presidential election and Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel, whose take on current events, he claims, is far from "fair and balanced."
Now he's taking aim at what he calls a "bipartisan" target: the Wal-Mart chain, which, with 1.6 million employees internationally and $285 billion in annual revenues, is the largest retailer in the world.
"Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price" tells the story of five people -- current and former employees as well as family business owners -- affected by the policies of the retail behemoth. The $1.6-million film premieres on DVD Nov. 13.
Though Greenwald had no name recognition when he started out, sales of his DVD projects opened doors this time around. "Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election" (2002) sold more than 40,000 copies, "Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War" (2003) more than 120,000, and "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism" (2004) more than 200,000. While not in the league of documentaries such as Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" or Morgan Spurlock's "Super Size Me," they've given Greenwald clout.
"This is my universal studio," said the 61-year-old filmmaker, pointing to a computer in his office, once a motel at which, legend has it, MGM executives across the street held their lunchtime trysts. "Through our Web site we've reached hundreds of thousands of people without a multimillion-dollar marketing push."
A potential theatrical run is in negotiation, according to Greenwald. After the DVD premiere, more than 2,500 houses of worship, schools, businesses and homes have volunteered to hold screenings that week, followed by a discussion of related issues, he said.
Concern about Wal-Mart policies in the areas of environment, labor relations and employee benefits crosses economic, ideological and geographic lines, Greenwald said. "There are actually more Republicans than Democrats in the film," he said. "Wal-Mart is an equal-opportunity offender."
The film business, he says, is also a victim of the chain, which, experts say, accounts for 30 percent or more of DVD revenues.