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Frontline’s Amazon Documentary: “There are Very Serious Questions at the Heart of the Film”

“Everything that's amazing or awesome about Jeff Bezos and Amazon is also something to be feared about Amazon and Jeff Bezos.”

“The new PBS Frontline documentary, ‘Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos,’ investigates how Bezos transformed Amazon from an online bookseller into a trillion-dollar business that’s unprecedented in its size and reach,” explains Terry Gross on her show Fresh Air. “Director James Jacoby, who worked with fellow filmmaker Anya Bourg on the project, calls the company an ‘inescapable part of our modern lives.’”

“‘Amazon Empire’ acknowledges Bezos as a brilliant entrepreneur, but also wonders how the company has affected the global retail landscape and if it treats its fulfillment center staffers fairly,” writes Mike Malone.

“There are very serious questions at the heart of the film,” Raney Aronson-Rath, executive producer of Frontline, tells Malone. “They all deserve fair journalistic treatment.” To read the full article, click here.

“You have to feast on crumbs, unfortunately,” Jacoby explains to David Dayen about the documentary’s production. “Even those who know him don’t want to talk about him personally. There’s 1) a reverence for him, and 2) a fear of him. We had to rely on the people who were there in the early years, these little details of people he hired, how he would do the hiring, wanting to know people’s SAT scores and how they think on their feet. Certainly we know his leadership principles, and the dogmatic adherence to customer obsession and getting big fast. There are things that are known.

Producer James Jacoby; co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance Stacy Mitchell; The Atlantic staff writer Franlin Foer; and series executive producer Raney Aronson-Roth detailed their investigation of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and how he executed a plan to build one of the most influential economic and cultural forces in the world. Photo by Rahoul Ghose/PBS
Producer James Jacoby; co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance Stacy Mitchell; The Atlantic staff writer Franlin Foer; and series executive producer Raney Aronson-Roth detailed their investigation of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and how he executed a plan to build one of the most influential economic and cultural forces in the world.
Photo by Rahoul Ghose/PBS

“A person on my team, Megan Robertson, looked at all the footage, every scrap of footage on Bezos,” Jacoby continues. “You watch how he repeats himself. It’s a finely tuned message he has not veered from in 25 years. There’s his philosophy of experimentation. Brad Stone uncovered the “Amazon.love” memo for his book. It was 2011 and Bezos was taking stock of the company that it’s becoming. And it’s a revelatory moment. He talks about what’s cool and not cool. It’s not cool to be a conqueror, it’s cool to be an explorer. Even though we’re dealing with an utter conqueror. So we relied on a lot of that stuff.” To read the full interview, click here.

From Frontline’s documentary “Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos”
From Frontline’s documentary “Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos”

Read more: Frontline Filmmaker Tracks [Jeff] Bezos’ “Rise and Reign” and How Amazon Became “Inescapable”

Read more: PBS Doc Puts Amazon’s Bezos “Front” and Center

Read more: “Amazon Empire”: 10 Key Takeaways from Frontline’s Documentary on Jeff Bezos’ Rise and Reign

Read more: “Alexa, should I watch the Frontline documentary about Jeff Bezos and Amazon?”

“I think that [Atlantic writer] Franklin Foer in the film puts it best, which is like everything that’s amazing or awesome about Jeff Bezos and Amazon is also something to be feared about Amazon and Jeff Bezos,” Jacoby tells Gross. To read the full interview, click here.

“What the filmmakers have effectively done is provide context in which to consider that meteoric rise,” says Bryan Lowry, “along with the ripple effects and potential costs of its impact… while leaving behind this lingering thought: When even the sky is no longer the limit, what does that mean for the rest of us?”

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