What chance does a small community have against a mighty company that townspeople insist has been polluting the area with deadly effect? The odds are great for Crossett, Arkansas, up against the Georgia-Pacific paper and chemical plant owned by Charles and David Koch, ultra rich and ultra powerful. “Company Town,” co-directed by Natalie Kottke-Masocco and Erica Sardarian, documents the raging battle for justice.
A community hero trying to stop the alleged pollution is David Bouie, a local clergyman, who inspires others to speak up and take action and demand that steps be taken by government to end the problem. The charge is that there has been an unusual rise in deaths from cancer that is attributed to the pollution. Pastor Bouie, who worked at the plant for 10 years, reports that on the street where he lives 11 out of 15 homes had someone die of cancer.
The film traces the situation from discovering the supposed proof of the healh hazards to people in the area. We meet many citizens, witness the meetings and discussions and follow the trail of the actions being taken.
The fight that unfolds is very frustrating, a typical little-guy versus entrenched power conflict with all of the stalling that occurs. What comes through importantly in the film is that this battle is symbolic of other situations in various communities beset by industries. Thus the troubles in Crossett have more significance than just the local struggle.
However, the filmmakers concentrate on the ongoing details and the individuals involved in Crossett, including those who came down with cancer, various activists and a particular a whistle blower. “Company Town” sharply addresses concerns about the environment and although the film could be tightened a bit, overall it is an important contribution to this very topical issue. A First Run Features release. Reviewed September 5, 2017.