Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline and Hollywood nonprofit the Creative Coalition have teamed up to produce a documentary about eating. Though the Creative Coalition insists that the filmmakers will have complete control over the film's content, critics are concerned that GlaxoSmithKline's involvement will result in a feature-length infomercial for the drug company's weight loss product, Alli.
The film's director is not yet known, though GlaxoSmithKline says it has a commitment from an Academy Award winner. The name will be announced on January 25, at the Sundance Film Festival.
The involvement of the Creative Coalition, a 501( c )( 3 ) social advocacy nonprofit that uses its funds to educate and promote issues to the American public, raises questions. In the past, the Creative Coalition hasn't been afraid to get political, but their main issues of focus, according to their website are first amendment rights, public education, and promotion of the arts.
Presumably, the film will discuss American eating habits and how to keep a proper diet, and GlaxoSmithKline said that the filmmakers will be under no pressure to mention Alli.
From The New York Times:
"The filmmakers can make a decision about whether Alli is important," she said. "We want it to be entirely transparent; we want it to have integrity. It's a fantastic outcome if people are simply more educated."
Even so, Glaxo's financial backing is sure to raise eyebrows. While corporations back films all the time, it is rare for one to pay for a documentary with direct hopes that it will translate into bigger profits. As a rule, documentary makers are an aggressively anticorporate crowd.
If corporations and nonprofits start teaming up more often to produce, not just films, but non-fiction films, is a conflict of interest inevitable? Will the impact be positive or negative? Leave your comments below.