Jump to content

Mark Achbar

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Mark Achbar
Occupation(s)Director, Producer

Mark Achbar (born in Ottawa in 1955[1]) is a Canadian filmmaker, best known for The Corporation (2003), Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (1994), and as an Executive Producer on over a dozen feature documentaries.


Achbar is a graduate of Syracuse University's Fine Arts Film Program. He interned in Hollywood on the children's TV programme Bill Daily's Hocus Pocus Gang, followed by three-years in Toronto with Sunrise Films on its documentary series Spread your Wings and briefly on the CBC/Disney series Danger Bay. He subsequently worked with his friend, director/writer Robert Boyd, and received a Gemini nomination for Best Writer on The Canadian Conspiracy, a cultural/political satire for CBC and HBO's Comedy Experiments hosted by Martin Mull, and featuring Canadian-born stars: Eugene Levy, Lorne Greene, Leslie Nelson, William Shatner, Morley Safer, Howie Mandel, Peter Jennings, John Candy, Dave Thomas, Margot Kidder, and Anne Murray. The fake documentary chronicled Canada’s secret takeover of the United States. The program won a Gemini for Best Entertainment Special and was nominated for an International Emmy.

Achbar moved into independent media, working in many capacities on films, videos, and books, notably Peter Watkins' epic 14.5 hr documentary The Journey, and the book At Work In The Fields of The Bomb, with photojournalist Robert Del Tredici. With Peter Wintonick, Achbar co-directed and co-produced Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (1992), which was, until the release of The Corporation Canada's all-time, top-grossing feature documentary. Achbar’s companion book to the film hit the national best-seller list in Canada.

Achbar collaborated with Jennifer Abbott to create Two Brides and a Scalpel: Diary of a Lesbian Marriage, a video diary by the couple who became known as Canada's first legally married same-sex couple. This true story was filmed as a video diary by Georgina Scott, a transsexual heavy equipment operator who legally married Linda Fraser, a lesbian woman, and then underwent male-to-female sex reassignment surgery. The film received festival invitations from around the world and was broadcast in Canada on Pridevision and the Knowledge Network.

In 1997, Achbar initiated a documentary film project titled The Corporation with author and University of British Columbia law professor Joel Bakan. Bakan wrote the film and book, while Achbar co-directed, produced and executive-produced the film, with Jennifer Abbott joining the team as co-director and editor in 2000. The Corporation was released theatrically in 2004 and stands as the all-time, top-grossing feature documentary ever made in Canada. During its 5-year existence, Encore+, a Youtube portal for "classic" Canadian films and TV shows (2017-2022), accumulated over 8,263,108 views of the film, its top-ranked title out of 2,500+ titles. Manufacturing Consent was 2nd ranked, with over 7,380,819 views, an indication of the enduring relevance of the issues the film explores.

Telefilm, a Canadian film and television financing agency, had a generous incentive program for producers of successful theatrical films. Until 2004, those films were exclusively dramas. The Corporation changed that. For the first time, a documentary’s box office gross qualified it for a “performance envelope” – an exclusive reserve fund for the top Canadian producers whose films gross over $1m. A total of $2.38m was awarded to Achbar's company, Invisible Hand Productions Inc, which he invested into ten Canadian feature documentaries: five in development and five in production, which helped lock in $270,000 of development financing and a further $5.85m of production financing for those productions. The completed, theatrically-released productions which benefited from this funding are: Velcrow Ripper's Fierce Light, When Spirit Meets Action; Denis Delestrac's Pax Americana and the Weaponization of Space, Kevin McMahon's Waterlife, Frederick Gertten's Bananas: Poison in a Banana Republic; Mathieu Roy's and Harold Crooks' Surviving Progress; and Oliver Hockenhull's Neurons to Nirvana: Understanding Psychedelic Medicine.

In 2022, Achbar helped shoot, and is an EP on DOSED2-The Trip Of A Lifetime

Achbar continues his film career as an executive producer of feature documentary films and the occasional mockumentary. He has contributed his videography skills to two animal rights videos, Penny's Story and Meat The Victims: Excelsior Farms.

Achbar is co-founder, with Sarah Butterfield, of Speakables, a stealthy Vancouver technology startup which designs novel offline speech-to-text devices to assist the deaf and hard of hearing.

Selected films[edit]

Director and Producer:

Executive Producer with Betsy Carson:

Executive Producer

Awards for "The Canadian Conspiracy"

Awards for "The Corporation"

  • Audience Award, World Cinema, Documentary Sundance Film Festival
  • Audience Award Philadelphia International Film Festival
  • Audience Award Vancouver International Film Festival
  • Audience Award Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival
  • Audience Award FIC Brasília International Film Festival
  • Audience Award (1st runner-up) Calgary International Film Festival
  • Audience Award (1st runner-up) Toronto International Film Festival
  • Insight Award for Excellence National Association of Film and Digital Media Artists, US
  • Best Documentary The Genie Awards, 2005
  • Genesis Award for Outstanding Documentary Film United States Humane Society
  • Audience Award for Best Feature Length Film Ecocinema International Film Festival, Rhodes
  • Best Feature Documentary Environmental Media Association Awards
  • Reel Room Audience Award for Best Documentary Sydney Film Festival
  • Joris Ivens Special Jury Award International Documentary Festival, Amsterdam
  • NFB Best Documentary Award Calgary International Film Festival
  • Best Feature Length Documentary Ecocinema International Film Festival, Rhodes
  • Top Ten Films of the Year Toronto International Film Festival Group
  • Best Documentary Program or Series - History/Biography/Social/Political Leo Award
  • Best Direction in a Documentary Program or Series Leo Award
  • Best Screenwriting in a Documentary Program or Series Leo Award
  • Best Picture Editing in a Documentary Program or Series Leo Award
  • Best Overall Sound in a Documentary Program or Series Leo Award
  • Best Sound Editing in a Documentary Program or Series Leo Award
  • Best Documentary (1st runner-up) Seattle International Film Festival
  • Special Jury Mention Montreal New Film And Video Festival

Awards for Manufacturing Consent

  • Golden Sesterce (Grand Prize) 1992 Visions du Réel documentary film festival, Nyon, Switzerland
  • Special Mention, FIPRESCI International Press Jury 1992 Visions du Réel documentary film festival, Nyon, Switzerland
  • Special Mention, Public Jury 1992 Nyon International Documentary Film Festival
  • Federal Express Award for Most Popular Canadian Film 1992 Vancouver International Film Festival
  • Gold Hugo (Best Social/Political Documentary) 1992 Chicago International Film Festival
  • Special Mention, Unanimous Jury Award 1992 Toronto International Festival of Festivals
  • Special Jury Award 1992 Atlantic Film Festival
  • Public's "Most Loved" Documentary 1992 Sydney International Film Festival
  • Gold Apple 1993 National Educational Film and Video Festival
  • Honourable Mention 1993 American Film and Video Festival
  • Director's Choice Award 1993 Charlotte Film and Video Festival
  • Voted "Best of the Festival" by Public 1993 Edmonton Global Visions Film Festival
  • Gold Conch (Grand Prize ex-aqueo) 1994 Bombay International Documentary Film Festival
  • Critics' Award 1994 Bombay International Film Festival
  • Grand Prize- Best Political Documentary 1994 Canadian Documentary Film Festival
  • Prix de la Critique Internationale/FIPRESCI Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique Festival de NYONE
  • Distinguished Documentary Achievement 1994 International Documentary Association

Nominations or semi-finalist for Manufacturing Consent[edit]

  • Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival
  • International Documentary Association Awards
  • Blois International Film Festival
  • Quinzaine du cinéma québécois
  • The Orwell Award
  • Best Documentary of the Year - New Internationalist Magazine


  1. ^ "Festival Archive (1952–2020)".

External links[edit]