Dave Morris, a former postman, and Helen Steel, a gardener, both lead quiet lives in London, England before getting involved in one of the most influential libel suits the world had ever seen. The meetings, pickets and fliers they created in protest of the global fast food chain McDonalds worked so well that spies, secret investigations and even a lawsuit were used against the two activists. The lawsuit, and subsequent appeals, spanned fifteen years, and its effects are still being felt.
McLibel exposes the extraordinary lengths McDonalds went to in order to silence Dave and Helen, the only two out of a small anti-McDonalds group brave enough to face the fast food giant. After sending spies to report on the group's bank reports, agendas and, most importantly, personalities of its members, McDonalds felt it had no choice but to silence the activists for advertising "false information" about the company to the public at large. The thought that a global corporation would sue a group of only a dozen people is frightening enough, but the real horror, as McLibel reveals, lies in the corporate spokespeople's vague sense of fact, overwhelming spirit of manipulation and damning ability to sweep over anybody in their way. The group's accusations - that McDonalds lies about the nutritional benefits of its food, unfairly targets children in their advertising, supports the destruction of the rainforest and is a leading cause of the increasing obesity in society - are now widely accepted in public debate. But in the early 1990s, any attempt by the British mainstream media to discuss these concerns ended with editorial corrections and apologies to the fast food giant.
The street style documentary, directed by Franny Armstrong, perfectly captures the grassroots movement it took to battle the corporate giant: volunteers opening letters and sorting donations in bedrooms, legal council working for nothing and witnesses flying over from the United States to testify on their behalf, to name a few. Shots of cramped London apartments juxtaposed with expert interviews and distorted flashes of McDonalds advertising give the viewer a full view of what Dave and Helen were up against: a tower of neverending money. Despite the company's wealth, it couldn't stop two people from changing the way fast food does business. Next stop... NYC bans transfat in cooking oil.