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Store Wars:When Wal-Mart Comes to Town

Globalization rears its ugly face in other places than massive protests of meetings with the world's leaders. A far more hideous side can be seen in the spawning of chain stores in strip malls and shopping plazas across America and the world. The largest of them, Wal-Mart, has found itself as the feature of a new film, "Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town." View an exclusive interview with the writer/director of the film, and learn more about globalization through small-town eyes.

Video and Articles by Drew Jaya

May.6th.2001



View FrictionMagazine's exclusive interview with "Store Wars'" writer/director Micha X. Peled.

About the Film "Store Wars"

Read an excerpt from a recent question and answer session with the filmmakers.

Like any good suspense drama, the Wal-Mart versus small-town America saga is taking place all across the country in communities just like Ashland, Va. Counter development organizations like Sprawl-Busters vehemently rally the cause in opposition to the superstore giant. Almost every business day rural and small town America is pitted against the behemoth of the Wal-Mart machine and it’s aggressive expansion campaign.

Adopting an almost colonial like stance, for some small town devotees who enjoy the serenity and character of their community, Wal-Mart and other chains like it are no different from early railroad tycoons in the 1800s who razed small towns, destroying local livelihoods, while bringing the railroad across the country in the name of inevitable progress.

Kudos to director Micha X. Peled who demonstrates with great sensibility how "big box" retailer Wal-Mart not only impacts a small American town as a whole, but individual citizens on both sides of the issue -- from the Wal-Mart and development proponents to passionate opposition forces. With another Wal-Mart just ten miles away in neighboring Tappahannock, Va., Store Wars follows a year in the life of the people of Ashland, Va. (population 7,200) when Wal-Mart, you guessed it, comes to their town.

There are plenty memorable moments throughout the film. Of particular note is a somewhat unsettling depiction of Wal-Mart’s enormous shareholders meeting which is reminiscent of a massive, religious tent meeting. Animated discussions about potential quality of life changes in Ashland are highlighted by street protests and demonstrations both for and against the progeny of Sam Walton. How accurate are Wal-Mart’s claims that the retail giants further expansion is beneficial to local economies? What kinds of jobs does a giant one-stop convenience superstore bring? Good or bad? Peled puts forth a strong effort to present these issues from both sides, demonstrating how these concerns bring out the most intense competitive emotions of the Ashland community.

Following a brief mention of the town’s history by local historian Rosie Shalf, the program quickly goes into telling the story of the year-long debate when Wal-Mart decides to bring it’s big-box megastore into the small Virginia community. Through first-person accounts and narration by community members, key players and town residents take the stage in the divisive drama. Interviews with the mayor, city officials, and Wal-Mart representatives are complemented with resident reaction, demonstrations, and speculation in council meetings, local businesses, coffee shops, individual homes, and other local hangouts. Although running at just an hour, "Store Wars" is an engaging record of Ashland’s diverse opinions on big-box retailers, small-town business, and Ashland’s own political and social climate.

Peled’s sensitivity to the residents of the town on both sides and his empathetic treatment of the subject matter makes this film a must see for anyone interested in expanding their understanding of the American landscape and how the seeds of globalization take place.

Fortunately, through it’s PBS airing in June, "Store Wars" will be viewed by millions of people across America. Big-box retail expansion, whether it be Wal-Mart, Rite-Aid, or Home Depot, are an increasing reality that is changing the face of communities across America.

Peled has stated that his intention through "Store Wars" is to bring about a healthy dialogue on the subject of multinational corporate expansion and what effects it has on similar communities.

"Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town" airs nationwide in the United States on PBS on June 7th.

Other films by Micha X. Peled

You, Me Jerusalem (1996)
Inside God’s Bunker (1994)
Will My Mother go Back to Berlin? (1992)




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