Merchants of Doubt (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 19, 2015 by  


“Merchants of Doubt” is a documentary that will open many eyes and will be a film that will inform, anger or cajole an individual, or hopefully a next generation of future leaders or scientists and inspire them to do something in the best interest of the people and planet, not just for increased profits. “Merchants of Doubt” is highly recommended!

TITLE: Merchants of Doubt


DURATION: 93 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Aspect Ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese Traditional, Chinese Simplified, French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, Turkish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13 (Brief Strong Language)

Release Date: July 7, 2015

Directed by Robert Kenner

Written by Erik M. Conway, Robert Kenner, Naomi Oreskes, Kim Roberts

Produced by Robert Kenner, Melissa Robledo

Executive Producer: Pierre Omidyar, Jeff Skoll

Co-Producer: Dylan Nelson, Taki Oldham, Brian Pearle, Youtchi von Lintel

Music by Mark Adler

Edited by Kim Roberts


Patricia Callahan

Matthew Crawford

Stanton A. Glantz

James Hansen

Katharine Heyhoe

Bob Inglis

Michael Mann

Marc Morano

Bill O’Keefe

Naomi Oreskes

John Passacantando

Tim Phillips

Sam Roe

Benjamin Santer

Michael Shermer

Frederick Singer

Jamy Ian Swiss

Inspired by the acclaimed book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, MERCHANTS OF DOUBT takes audiences on a satirically comedic yet illuminating ride into the heart of conjuring American spin. Filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the curtain on a secretive group of highly charismatic, silver-tongued pundits-for-hire who present themselves in the media as scientific authorities – yet have the contrary aim of spreading maximum confusion about well-studied public threats ranging from toxic chemicals to pharmaceuticals to climate change.

In 2010, American historians of science Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway wrote “Merchants of Doubt”.  A book that would identify the parallels between the global warming controversy and also earlier controversies such as tobacco smoking, acid rain and the hole in the ozone layer.

In 2014, award-winning filmmaker Robert Kenner (“Food, Inc.”, “America’s Endangered Species: Don’t Say Goodbye”) would create his latest documentary based on the 2010 book.  And now, “Merchants of Doubt” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Picture Classics.

“Merchants of Doubt” is a documentary that tries to show the debate between science and politically conservative scientists or groups that are funded by corporations supporting a certain product.

The film would first focus on the tobacco industry and how the major players in the industry would testify that there were no proof that tobacco would cause lung cancer.  The documentary would feature an interview with Stanton Glantz and how tobacco companies and the doctors were reporting of how there is no conclusive evidence.  But how a whistleblower would eventually leak documents .

But how other companies would focus on a similar style such as the tobacco companies and other people observing the documents would look into other dangerous topics that companies may be hiding its dangers.

Another topic is in regards to flame retardant chemicals and how they are used on furniture and material used by children.  And how the Chicago Times focused on a story of flame retardants and the doctors downplaying the dangers of the chemicals.

The next topic which is greatly focused on, would be about global climate change and the battle between scientists, special interest groups, individuals, organizations and how certain “experts” are undermining the scientists and delaying any progress of trying to prevent global warming.  And both continuing the ongoing debate who is right and who is wrong.

But the film focuses on how corporate-financed public relation efforts are utilized to create confusion and skepticism and interviewing scientists, activists, whistleblowers and politicians who have tried to expose these activities.


“Merchants of Doubt” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). The documentary uses newer, digital footage and also archived video sources.  For the most part, the picture quality of the film is very sharp and colorful.


“Merchants of Doubt” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital.  For this documentary, dialogue and musical soundtrack is crystal clear and there are some moments where surround channels are utilized.  But for the most part, this is a dialogue-driven soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Chinese Traditional, Chinese Simplified, French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, Turkish


“Merchants of Doubt” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Robert Kenner.
  • An Evening at the Toronto International Film Festival with Robert Kenner – (17:45) A Q&A with director Robert Kenner about “Merchants of Doubt” at TIFF
  • Unlikely Voices – (5:25) Featuring a group of other individuals that were not featured in the final cut of “Merchants of Doubt”.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Merchants of Doubt”.


“Merchants of Doubt” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.

“Merchants of Doubt” is no doubt an informative and important documentary from award-winning filmmaker Robert Kenner.

There are no doubt a lot of things in the world and how human actions have affected this planet and while you have a large group of scientists who are vocal about how the world will need to change its ways or else it’s too late, there are other groups who intend to discredit the scientists and both offering their facts.  Who is right?  Who is wrong?

And these groups who provide evidence and studies showing something detrimental to one’s health or to the planet, there is always a group to discredit the findings and this is something we will see ongoing for the rest of our lives.

We can read many stories in the newspaper, from the threat of cell phones being held to one’s head so long, may lead to cancer.  Eating too much of this food or that food is bad for you.  And I’m sure many of us have seen many similar stories of other subject in the media throughout our lifetime, not knowing who is right and who is wrong.

But “Merchants of Doubt” does a wonderful job of showing how facts can be spun and how a quote from a scientist can be used out of context, how doctors, scientists serving a certain corporation can easily support their superiors and discrediting the facts.

The film first establishes how the tobacco industry was able to hide the facts that cigarettes were harmful to people and delayed the process in order to make money.  A whistleblower was able to leak classified information and the tobacco industry would receive a punishment but also open pandora’s box of other companies who may be doing something similar.

While Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway has done a wonderful job with their book, what’s surprising about Kenner’s documentary is the ability to interview individuals on both sides.  At first, because the film tries to show how corporations and hired clients try to create confusions and skepticism about the research from the scientists, we learn how its affected various scientists (many who receive death threats), how one politician went from highly favorable to losing in an election because of his perspective on global warming.

While the film tries to be optimistic that wrongs will be eventually be fixed in hopefully a shorter time it has taken with the tobacco industry, unfortunately, the days of seeing America take climate change seriously and the government backing it, seems unattainable, especially if politicians keep flipflopping from originally supporting that global warming was man-made and then suddenly changing their tone, of not sure who to blame.

But these topics are not restricted to global warming and there is no point of rehashing other topics since we live with it daily and can see it in the media too often than we would like.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Merchants of Doubt” is a film that is well-put together, considering Kenner was able to get individuals on both sides discussing their thoughts and their perspective of what they are supporting.  Picture and audio quality is well-done and you also get quite a few special features included as well!

I personally would love to share the same optimism that Robert Kenner has set in “Merchants of Doubt” by offering hope that things would someday change.  But for now, “Merchants of Doubt” is a documentary that will open many eyes and will be a film that will inform, anger or cajole an individual, or hopefully a next generation of future leaders or scientists and inspire them to do something in the best interest of the people and planet, not just for increased profits.

“Merchants of Doubt” is highly recommended!


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