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MacLibel Doc UK Opens Well

McLibel RainbowThe McLibel documentary from Franny Armstrong's Spanner Films had a good UK opening weekend at London's Wardour Street Odeon. The producers report a good press and a lot of screening enquiries coming in from cinemas all over the UK. The DVD version is also released now.

"Fearless" Franny Armstrong, evironment documentary filmmakerFearless Franny Armstrong carried on filming two environmental activists who were being sued for libel by the McDonalds fast food corporation, after mainstream broadcasters pulled out for fear that they too might be sued by the food giant, known at that time to be litiginous.

Although the environmentalists were held to have libelled the plaintiffs in a British courtroom, European courts found that British law had not served them as well as it had the plaintiffs, virtually quashing the previous libel verdict of the British court.

The McLibel documentary following the progress of the legal case and the effect it had on the defendants, has been seen in shorter form on TV stations all around the world by millions of people. Now Spanner has released it on DVD at the same time as opening it in UK cinemas.

David Morrris & Helen Steel, environment campaigners in courtPRESS EXTRACTS

Jason Solomons, Mail on Sunday:

"Beating their arch enemy."

Two old-fashioned socialists took on McDonalds and won. Former postman David Morris and gardener Helen Steel endured the longest trial in English legal history, representing themselves for most of the 314 days against serried ranks of corporate lawyers.

But they eventually triumphed against the way the golden-arched giant marketed itself to children, the nutritional benefit of its food and the way it treated its workers.

Daily Express 17.2.06

Freedom of speech is central to this fascinating documentary on the titanic battle between environmentalists Helen Steel and Dave Morris and McDonald's.

When the duo distributed leaflets alleging that McDonald's meals were unhealthy and their business practices were unethical, the company sued them for libel. McDonald's spent 10 million pounds on the case. Gardener Helen and postman Dave were not even allowed legal aid. Their refusal to bow down eventually resulted in a landmark ruling from the European Court of Human rights.

Using their own record of events and dramatised reconstructions of the trial, McLibel is a heartening illustration that determined individuals can topple giants and change the world.

Sunday Telegraph 19.2.06

Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me (2004) had the surprising impact of making me want to find the nearest Big Mac - they looked rather good on screen. McLibel luckily had no such effect. This documentary follows two British campaigners who represented themselves in court against McDonald's after being libelled for highlighting the comapny's unethical politices. Some ugly truths are exposed.

BBC Review by Matthew Leyland (Updated 12 February 2006)

A true underdog story, McLibel succinctly documents the tale of David Morris and Helen Steel, two activist friends sued by McDonald's over a pamphlet that put fast food in the firing line. The resulting trial ending up becoming the longest in UK legal history, costing the Big Mac-makers around £10 million. From obesity and animal cruelty to the exploitation of pester power, the issues are dissected in a digestible, no-extra-relish format. Conversely, a lack of cinematic pizzazz means it'll play better on the box. But this is still a tasty companion piece to Super Size Me.

Like Morgan Spurlock, the defendant duo's beef isn't so much with McDonald's per se. As former postman David puts it, "This is about the public's right to know what the most powerful organisations in the world, multi-national corporations, are really doing." While neither he nor his pal share Spurlock's natural charisma (Helen admits she's camera-shy), the very fact of their unassuming ordinariness inspires all the more.

Stretching back to 1986 (when the Everything They Don't Want You To Know pamphlet was first produced), events are functionally re-told via interviews, diary entries and courtroom reconstructions. While this David and Goliath story has a happy ending, it's also honest enough to count the personal costs that taking a stand can incur. Further flavour's added to the menu by Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser and by ex-Ronald McDonald actor Geoffrey Giuliano, who says he felt like "the man in the Third Reich who was propaganda minister". Lovin' it...



More on the McLibel film can be found here: