This interview with Robert Greenwald, director of the new documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, is part of an unprecedented collaboration by The Nation, The American Prospect, In These Times and AlterNet to focus attention on issues raised by the film. On AlterNet, Joshua Holland explores the hidden costs of Wal-Mart’s cheap merchandise from China in “Wal-Mart’s China Price,” and Greg LeRoy looks at sweetheart taxpayer subsidies in “Wal-Mart’s Tax on Us.”
In The American Prospect, Harold Meyerson’s “Open Doors, Closed Minds” explores how one Wal-Mart true believer was excommunicated for his faith in doing what he thought the company expected of him: crying foul. Christoper Hayes of In These Times explores Wal-Mart as a “Symbol of the System.”
You’ve chosen an unorthodox distribution strategy for Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price–forgoing theatrical release and instead screening the film at house parties and community centers. What about this formula works for this kind of film?
I like going to the movies. I like having popcorn. But if your goal is to create social change, it’s not even a question that this is the way to go. Let’s think about it for a minute. You go to the movies, you have to spend $10. What are the chances you’re going to get someone to go to a movie on a subject they don’t care about, or they disagree with you on? Very, very slim. However, if it’s on at your church, or your neighbor invites you over for a drink and shows the DVD, or if it’s at your student union hall or your bowling alley, it’s an entirely different thing. Everyone has a friend who disagrees with them politically, everyone has relatives they fight with all the time, people they argue with at work…these are the kinds of people we are reaching with this kind of campaign. With Outfoxed, we reached an enormous amount of people–never in my wildest dreams did I imagine how many people we would end up reaching this way.
In your other films, Outfoxed and Uncovered, you focus largely on expert opinion. Why did you decide to make ordinary Americans the focus of this film?
I felt the way to tell the Wal-Mart story was to go very small, intimate and personal. It was a key creative and political decision; if the movie was going to be effective, it had to be done this way. Many of the people in this film are self-identified conservatives. The issue of corporate greed far exceeds any issue of Democrats and Republicans.