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Review: ‘Company Town’ takes aim at factory owners in Arkansas

A “No Dumping” sign as seen in the documentary movie “Company Town.” Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki
A scene from the documentary “Company Town.”
(Nicolaus Czarnecki)

Paper products titan Georgia-Pacific and its owners, Koch Industries, are taken to the proverbial woodshed in the trenchant, disturbing documentary “Company Town.”

This powerful film, directed by Natalie Kottke-Masocco, who co-wrote with co-director Erica Sardarian, contends that an unusually high percentage of residents of tiny Crossett, Ark., the longtime home to a giant Georgia-Pacific factory, have contracted often-fatal cancers and other illnesses, allegedly as a result of the plant’s emissions and waste removal systems.

But proving this, much less forcing any corporate or federal action to mitigate the crisis, has been a Sisyphean task for the folks of Crossett. They’re led in their struggle by Baptist minister David Bouie who, like many of the citizens stirringly interviewed here, including a brave whistleblower, is a onetime employee of Georgia-Pacific. And therein lies the rub: So many locals have been beholden to this monolith for their livelihoods.

The film, shot from 2011-15, follows the efforts of Bouie, Cheryl Slavant, scientists and others to engage the regional staff of the Environmental Protection Agency in their fight against Georgia-Pacific. But the results are limited — and the troubles still ongoing.

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Although the movie, also featuring input from progressive activist-author and CNN regular Van Jones, could use some second-half tightening and a bit more objectivity (Georgia-Pacific and Koch Industries did not comment in the film), it remains a vital, eye-opening portrait.

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‘Company Town’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

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Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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