June 23, 2015


Directed by Robert Kenner. (2014, 93 min).

I love my parents. Besides my own family, they mean the world to me, though our worldviews are decidedly different. It wasn't until well into adulthood that I noticed, not only how politically conservative they are, but how liberal I'd become. They keep up on current events through Fox News, while reading Huffington Post is part of my daily morning routine. We both rely on sources which tell us exactly what we want to hear and believe those who think differently are woefully misguided, even though the actual truth of any given issue is probably somewhere in the middle.

On occasion, my mom and I have tried to set each other straight, to no avail, of course. While she has attempted to convince me to take Bill O'Reilly's views seriously by reading one of his books, claiming his utter objectivity and philanthropy, I can't get past my opinion of him as a jingoistic hate-monger. Similarly, if I were to insist she watch Merchants of Doubt, she'd likely assume director Robert Kenner is just another conspiracy theorist with an alarmist liberal agenda.

"Wait'll ya see the centerfold..."

And indeed, Merchants of Doubt does preach to the converted, confirming what they've always suspected about powerful corporations and the charismatic, articulate spin doctors hired to contradict (or at least call into question) scientific findings regarding various health-related or environmental issues, mostly climate change. To its credit, Merchants of Doubt generally doesn't focus on climate change itself, but the measures taken by those who have the most to lose economically (mostly oil companies and those in-bed with them). It provides a strong argument, especially when interviewing those who once assumed the idea climate change was the work of a bunch of Chicken Littles, only to change their stance over time as the evidence mounted. However, I can imagine this same film being equally fascinating those who don’t buy into climate change, hackles raised just like mine are when occasionally tuning into Fox News on days I’m in the mood to feel morally outraged.

All which makes Merchants of Doubt the best kind of incendiary documentary, taking one of the world’s most controversial issues and purposely stirring both sides of the pot. Though decidedly one-sided, it’s extremely well made and offers a compelling argument that nothing presented in the media should be taken at face value. Conservatives will likely hate the message, liberals will love it, but neither will be bored, which is ultimately the bottom line.


  • Deleted Scenes
  • Featurette: "An Evening at the Toronto International Film Festival with Robert Kenner"
  • Audio Commentary
  • DVD Copy


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