Thursday 28 April 2016
Fanny Armstrong, Ken Loach | UK, 1997 | 85 mins | Not Rated
Screening as part of Haringey Independent Cinema’s 10 year anniversary, McLibel is the true story of two Haringey residents, Helen Steel and Dave Morris, who took on McDonalds and refused to say “McSorry”.
McDonald’s utilised UK libel laws to suppress criticism; even major media organisations like the BBC and the Sun crumbled and apologised. But then McDonald’s sued activists Helen and Dave in a legal battle since described as “the biggest corporate PR disaster in history”.
In what became the longest trial in English history at that time, the ‘McLibel 2’ represented themselves against McDonald’s $19m legal team. Every aspect of the corporation’s business was cross-examined; from junk food and McJobs to animal cruelty, environmental damage and the company’s advertising to children. McDonald’s used every trick in the book against them; legal manoeuvres, a visit from Ronald McDonald, top US executives flying to London for secret settlement negotiations, and even spies. Seven years later in February 2005 the marathon trial finally concluded in the European Court of Human Rights. And the result took everyone by surprise – even the British government.
Filmed over ten years by no-budget director Fanny Armstrong, McLibel features re-enactments of key courtroom scenes directed by Ken Loach. McLibel is not only about hamburgers. It is about the power that multinational companies wield over our everyday lives, and two unlikely heroes.