McLibel (2005)

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Released 19-Oct-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Short Film-Original 1997 Version, With 2 Commentaries
Featurette-John Safran Vs McDonalds
Featurette-Secrets - Settlement Meeting, McPress Conference
Featurette-Secrets - Amateur Dramatics, Interview With Spy,
Featurette-Secrets - Rejection Letters, The Leaflet, The Campaign
Featurette-Interviews-Eric Schlosser,George Ritzer,Fran Tiller-McD Spy
Featurette-Interviews-Vandana Shiva, Mike Mansfield QC, Keir Starmer QC
Featurette-Interviews-Howard Lyman, Geoffrey Guiliano
Deleted Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 84:40
RSDL / Flipper No/No
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Franny Armstrong
Spanner Films
Madman Entertainment
Starring Dave Morris
Helen Steel
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $29.95 Music Various

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, During end credits

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    McLibel is more than just a documentary made in 2005. It is a film with a lengthy and quite amazing history and it is also the name used for the court case featured in the film (see the Wikipedia entry for McLibel). The documentary tells the story of former postman Dave Morris and gardener Helen Steel, two unassuming people who took on the might of the global fast food chain McDonald's and caused the burger giant years of public relations embarrassment, not to mention more than 10 million pounds in legal fees.

    It all started out in 1986 when Dave and Helen started handing out leaflets as part of their volunteer work for London Greenpeace. The leaflets on this occasion  made all sorts of accusations about the Golden Arches, accusations the company naturally vehemently denied, in the way only a company with a corporate spin department can. The Greenpeace group had claimed, amongst other things, that McDonald's crassly aimed their advertising at children, that they lied about their food's nutritional value and that despicable animal cruelty was rampant in the cattle and chicken provided to McDonald's. Now McDonald's had a history of not letting this sort of attack rest. As part of the less-than-free libel laws in the UK, McDonald's had successfully forced many newspapers and other media outlets to publicly apologise for allegations they had made over the years. When the Greenpeace leaflet hit the streets, McDonald's swung into action and served a writ on both Helen and Dave, small fry they thought, who they figured would roll over and apologise quickly and the matter would be settled. But unlike the many others who had blinked in the headlights before them, these two were not about to lie down. So was born the so-called "McLibel Two" and a rather lengthy trial  - a trial that would go on to become the longest ever held in the United Kingdom.

    Helen and Dave had no legal experience and absolutely had no money to hire any, so they were forced to represent themselves. Against a high-powered team put up by McDonald's it was assumed they wouldn't stand a chance. But stand they did and they took the fight up to the big boys. The trial began in June 1994 and clocked up more than 300 days in court before a verdict was handed down in June 1997. Sometime during the trial director Franny Armstrong heard about the story and decided to make a film about it. Her ultra-small budget documentary was released in 1997, ran for 52 minutes and is included on disc two in this set as an extra. I won't spoil the verdict of the trial, since if you really want to discover just who won the case you can search any number of sites on the 'net. Suffice it to say it wasn't a clear victory for either side and the battle continued well past 1997.

    The film was revisited in early 2005 after Helen and Dave had taken their case to the European Court, which was hearing civil charges they raised against the UK Government about human rights violations in the legal system due to the lack of legal aid being available for libel cases - the only such cases where aid is denied. This newly edited film now runs for 84 minutes and is the main feature on disc one.

    This story is a classic case of two battlers overcoming adversity and taking on the seemingly unbeatable global conglomerate. It is also about the attacks on our freedom of speech which are seemingly becoming more and more common in these terrorist bill filled days, even if we don't realise it. It is as cheaply made as a movie can be with tacky re-enactments of the court scenes and a series of interviews and a few snippets of archival footage as the sole source of information. But it's compelling and it's thought-provoking. Anything that lifts the lid on corporate skulduggery (and McDonald's has tried it all it would seem) and questions just how powerful global companies have become is a good thing.

Do you want fries with that?

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The video transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and it is not 16x9 enhanced.

    McLibel was an ultra-low budget film (the director refers to it as a no-budget film) with most of the image filmed on what appears to be digital tape-based equipment coupled with various news program sourced material. Don't expect too much in terms of pristine, vibrant, or colourful film-like images here. There is grain evident in many of the shots with poor lighting, but overall this is a reasonably clean image. There is no low level noise.

    Colours aren't exactly what I'd call vibrant, but the style of film and the content matter presented doesn't really call for heaps of bright colour.

    There are no compression or film-to-video artefacts. Film artefacts are also absent with much of the film shot on tape.

    There are no subtitles which is a shame.

    This is a single layered disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    A fairly basic audio selection graces this disc. We get an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack as the only option. Disc two, which contains the extras, does include a commentary track for the original and somewhat shorter 1997 version of the film.

    Dialogue is pretty much all this is about, being a documentary. This is handled well with no obvious problems. There are also no audio sync issues.

    There is a quite a lot of background music and it is all handled well. All the artists who provided music for the film are listed in the credits with a brief biography on them.

    There is no surround or subwoofer use at all.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    With such an interesting and controversial topic comes the chance for a swag of extras to be included and the producers of this DVD have done the subject proud. We get a second disc packed to the rafters with bonus stuff including the original 1997 film and all the background material to the case making this one of the most comprehensive extras packages I have seen for some time.

Main Menu Introduction

Main Menu Audio & Animation

Menu Audio

Short Film

    This is the original 1997 version of the McLibel film made just after the verdict in the first libel court case was decided. It runs for 52:47 and obviously does not contain any of the material from David and Helen's fight at the European Court.

Featurette - John Safran Vs McDonalds

    This is the only featurette included on this Region 4 disc that cannot be found elsewhere. Perpetual troublemaker John Safran goes undercover disguised as Ronald McDonald in an effort to plant himself in a Sydney store. The response of the store's management is at best described as over-the-top. Runs for 4:53.

Featurette - Secrets

    There are eight parts to the Secrets featurette, all dealing with the behind-the-scenes and the often less than legal or moral aspects of the case. These range from an edited version of the settlement meeting that Helen and Dave had with McDonalds through to copies of the leaflet that started the whole thing. There's quite a bit of stuff here that demands a closer look if you want to get a real handle on what happened in the lead-up to the verdict.

Settlement Meeting (27:21)

    Recordings of the settlement meetings between Helen, Dave and the McDonald's heavies.

McPress Conference  (7:47)

    A replay of the press conference held by McDonald's after the 1997 verdict was delivered

Amateur Dramatics

    This is footage from 1996 where amateur dramatics (including the director's dad and the director herself) play the role of the court witnesses. This was filmed in an effort to determine if these sort of re-enactments could be incorporated into the film. Runs for 6:22.

Interview With Spy

    Fran Tiller was one of at least seven people employed as a private investigator and engaged by McDonald's to infiltrate the London Greenpeace group. Here she discusses her reasons for taking on the job and what she did once in the group. Runs for 5:21.

Rejection Letters

    Six pages of text showing various rejection letters the producers received in trying to get their film off the ground.

The Leaflet

    Copies of the original six-page 1986 fact sheet that started the whole McLibel trial plus the newer 2004 abridged version.

The Campaign

     Four pages of text written by Dave Morris and Helen Steel outlining a brief history of the McLibel Campaign.

Featurette - Interviews

    More footage of the interviews with the various people found in the film (interestingly the Fran Tiller interviewer is an exact replica of the one above). These are Eric Schlosser (8:43), George Ritzer (5:25), Fran Tiller (5:21), Vandana Shiva (3:50), Mike Mansfield QC (5:28), Keir Starmer QC (7:24), Howard Lyman (5:16) and Geoffrey Guiliano (4:35).


    25 questions about facts in the film with a few tongue in cheek ones thrown in for good measure (example - Q) Which of the following has NOT been found in McDonald's food a) A worm, b) half a mouse, c) rat poison, d) broken glass, or e) a libel writ!)

Deleted Scenes

    Six deleted scenes running for between 1:00 and a lengthy 13:08.

Featurette - Production

    There are six sections to be found under the production menu. First up is a newspaper article reproduction outlining the difficulty director Franny Armstrong had getting the British television channels to produce this documentary. This is followed by a 20:39 making-of featurette about McLibel. In truth this is just an extended interview with director Franny Armstrong. Next in this section is the ability to invoke the audio commentary in the 1997 version of the film again, while rounding out this section is an interactive list of credits for the film and DVD, a filmography for the director and a list of quotes about the film from critics and fans.

Theatrical Trailer

    The trailer for McLibel. Runs for 2:54 and sums up the film nicely.


    Short promotional spots for and


    Several photos, both B&W and colour of Dave, Helen and others involved in the McLibel trial. Runs automatically for 1:31.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Other than the inclusion of the John Safran featurette, both the Region 1 and UK Region 2 discs are identical to the Region 4. I'll declare a win by a nose for the local disc.


    Forget your blockbuster films with digitally transferred widescreen video with 5.1 dts soundtracks. This DVD package is one of the best released this year and it comes with vanilla 1.33:1 video and stereo audio. It is the thought-provoking film and the outstanding set of comprehensive extras that are the true gems here. If this film doesn't make you question your choices in regard to junk food and free speech then you must either by a descendant of Ray Kroc (the McDonald's founder) or addicted to quarter pounders, globalisation or both.

    This is a great DVD and one that deserves to find its way to the players of many people. Those that do buy this disc - don't just leave it sitting on your shelf - share it around with your friends and let them all see the facts and make up their own minds.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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