Register Thursday | June 27 | 2019

Profiles in Discouragement

Filmmaker Mark Achbar is exhausted

I first met Mark Achbar in April at Bily Kun, a Montreal bar adorned with ostrich heads. The decor gives you the distinct feeling of being submerged in the sand: the ostriches watch you, grinning knowingly at the wilful ignorance that has brought you into their subterranean refuge. It was a fitting place to meet a filmmaker whose thought-provoking documentary The Corporation was crafted with the intention of yanking your head from the sand and showing you a world that has been hidden from view.

Since his film premiered in Vancouver this winter, Achbar has been touring around the continent. He admits that the schedule is hectic and that he’s getting a bit numb; it’s difficult to keep his presentation fresh, to keep offering new answers to the same questions. Sixteen thousand volunteers have registered online to spread the word, and the film has inspired a number of activists and groups. Achbar receives about ninety emails each day, conducts countless interviews and visits premieres and events all over North America.

I ask him how he unwinds.

“I do psychedelics with friends and I go to raves,” he says blankly.

“That’s how you keep sane?”

“Oh, for sure.”

This part of his life is a relatively new phase, something that has cropped up since he began work on this last film. His current drug of choice is ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic South American brew of leaves and vines.

“It’s just not comparable to anything, it just is what it is,” he says. “It gives you access to your own life experience and also—there’s really no way to explain it—to another dimension in a way that really lets you come to terms with a lot of things in your life in a very forgiving, compassionate, constructive kind of way.”

After all the work he’s done researching, creating and promoting this new movie, it would appear that he could use a little time with his own head in the sand.

“I’m trying to get to the point where my mind is blank,” he sighs exhaustedly. “I don’t want any more ideas.”

The Corporation has won audience choice awards at festivals worldwide, including  the Sundance Film Festival, and was voted one of Canada’s Top Ten films of 2003 by the Toronto International Film Festival Group. It is the highest grossing feature documentary in Canadian history, breaking the record previously held by Achbar’s 1992 film, Manufacturing Consent.