In 1998, university professor Kembrew McLeod successfully trademarked the phrase “freedom of expression” as an experiment of startling comment on the way that intellectual property law restricts creativity and expression of ideas. This film explores the battles being waged in courts, classrooms, museums, film studios, and the Internet over control of cultural commons. Based on McLeod’s book of the same title, Freedom of Expression charts the many successful attempts to push back this assault by overzealous copyright holders.
King Corn follows two college friends curious about the food system, as they decide to have a shot at farming an acre of corn. In the process, the two examine the role that the increasing production of corn has had across not only on the concepts of industrial food, but the health of the land, the health of the environment, and the health of people. The film spotlights the role of government subsidies which make huge monocrops of corn possible, which itself has—as industrial agriculture—a catastrophic ecological impact, but in-turn drives factory-farming of animals and other atrocities such as the production of high-fructose corn syrup which is saturated throughout industrial food, not least, fast-food. We see how this industrialisation has eliminated the family farm and local food production—things which are increasingly impossible in this brutal arrangement of corporate power.
In Mexico, ‘maquiladoras’ is a word used to describe the sort of factories that have become commonplace with globalisation—mass assembly and manufacturing plants primarily staffed by women for low wage and long hours in unsafe and toxic conditions. Tijuana has attracted so many such factories that it has gained the nickname Maquilapolis. Delving into the landscape of this, this film asks the question: What is the human price of globalisation? Maquilapolis brings American and Mexican-American filmmakers together with Tijuana factory workers and community organisers to answer that question and tell the story of globalisation through the eyes and voices of the workers themselves. The result is a film to inform and inspire, as each day the workers confront labor violations, environmental devastation and urban chaos…
Sex Slaves documents an extraordinary journey deep into the world of sex trafficking from the perspective of Viorel—a young man trying to find his wife Katia who was four months’ pregnant when she left home looking for a job. Along the way, the production team takes a rare, hidden-camera look at various traffickers, pimps and middlemen who buy and sell hundreds of thousands of women each year. Lured by traffickers who prey on their dreams of employment abroad, many of the women are then kidnapped and “exported” to Europe, the Middle East, the United States and elsewhere. During this process, they are sold to pimps, locked in brothels, drugged, terrorised and raped repeatedly. In Eastern Europe, sex trafficking has become the fastest growing form of organised crime, with Moldova and Ukraine widely seen as major suppliers of women into the global sex trade…
S11 documents protest actions in Melbourne, Australia, 2000 against the World Economic Forum meeting. Specific accounts of police brutality and ferocious attacks on people protesting national and international issues are captured, in direct contradiction with mainstream media coverage, portraying activists as violent protesters.
An Act of Conscience documents the story of two couples Randy Kehler and Betsy Corner who refused to pay income tax throughout the 1980s in an act of defiance against military spending and war. The film captures the support community that formed in response to the seizure of their home by the IRS, and the conflict with the young couple with a newborn who bought the home at a government auction. Was this an effective protest?
This film comprehensively documents the use of chemical weapons—particularly the use of incendiary bombs—along with hordes of other horrific indiscriminate violence against civilians and children by the United States military in the city of Fallujah during the invasion of Iraq in November 2004. The cases portrayed involve the use of white phosphorus and other substances similar to napalm, such as Mark-77, which constitute clearly defined war crimes involving chemical weapons. Interviews with ex-military personnel involved in the Fallujah offensive back up the case for the use of such weapons by the United States, while reporters stationed in Iraq discuss the government’s attempts to suppress the news by covert means.
Big Bucks, Big Pharma looks at the varied insidious methods of the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry to manipulate—and in some instances create—psychological conditions for profit. Focusing on the advertising for psychotropic drugs, the film demonstrates the ways in which pharmaceutical marketing glamorises and normalises the use of prescription medication, and how this works in tandem with promotion and delivery by doctors. These practices combine to shape how both patients and doctors understand and relate to mental and physical health, as well as treatment. Ultimately, Big Bucks, Big Pharma challenges the viewer to ask important questions about the consequences of a society relying on a for-profit industry for collective health and well-being.
My Country, My Country documents the United States’ invasion of Iraq from an insider’s perspective, as told by Iraqi citizens themselves, and by the efforts of a devoted father and Sunni Muslim political candidate. Filmmaker Laura Poitras also spends time on the ground following the United States military ‘Civil Affairs’ team during the 2005 elections in Iraq. As the US government attempts to “bring democracy” to the country, Baghdad native Dr. Riyadh is faced with making the difficult decision of supporting the popular boycott of the elections, or fighting for a democracy that seems ever more unlikely with each passing day. With intimate footage of Dr. Riyadh’s interactions with the public and candid interviews featuring the opinions of every-day citizens, My Country, My Country provides a rare look inside the struggle in Iraq in the context of an ongoing brutal occupation.
In July 2005, the Australian government announced its plan to open a radioactive waste-dump facility in one of three Department of Defence sites in the Northern Territory of Australia. With widespread community resistance by the indigenous people of the territory, No Where Here in the Middle documents the ongoing story of resistance to the dump and the fight to be free of toxins, poison, and a brutal occupation.
Produced while the invasion was in full swing, Iraq for Sale investigates some the many private contractors and consultants that were brought into to Iraq as part of the United States military machine. Four major contractors are profiled: Blackwater, K.B.R.-Halliburton, CACI and Titan, along with investigations of human rights violations, systemic misconduct, corruption, and profiteering. The film posits what damage is done to the ‘average citizen’ when corporations decide to wage war. For those in opposition to war and corporate power, the connection between the invasion of Iraq and the private corporations who profit from the fighting is plain to see. For those who still may not be so easily convinced, the film not only explores the questionable motivations of the corporate decision-makers whose wartime profiteering has affected the lives of countless soldiers and their families, not mention the lives of millions of civilians, but also the increasingly negative international reputation of the United States as a result.
Money is a new form of slavery and is only distinguishable from the old slavery simply by the fact that it is impersonal—that there is no human relation between master and slave. Debt in government, corporate and household has reached astronomical proportions. Where does all this money come from? How could there be that much money to lend? The answer is that there isn’t…
The Virgin Trade investigates the growing phenomenon of Western sex tourism, with a focus on Thailand. The film travels through red light districts and the starry-eyed advertising propaganda that targets Western men to reveal the mechanics of the sex industry as it operates throughout Asia. What is revealed is a world entangled by money which leads to abuse, demand which perpetuates the culture, consumerism which drives demand, and poverty which drives the need. What happens when countries and cultures are ravished like this with Western sex tourism? Are parents selling their children into brothels to finance lavish Western lifestyles? Or do orphans fill the demand—smuggled into sex-work after disasters like the tsunami of 2004? The Virgin Trade dangles the questions of numbers while still affirming widespread exploitation and deceit. The interconnectedness, scale and depth of the problem, as well as what is still hidden or left unsaid, is left up to the viewer…
Located in Western Africa, Sierra Leone is a nation caught in a struggle between extreme poverty and extreme wealth. While diamond mining provides the bulk of the country’s income, most of its people struggle to survive by raising their own crops. In 1991, a rebel group called the Revolutionary United Front formed to take on government and corporate interests in a bid for a more just economy and an end to hunger. At first, the RUF was popular with Sierra Leoneans, many of whom resented the elite seen as corrupt and looked forward to the promises of free education, health care and equitable sharing of diamond revenues. However, as civil broke out, the RUF was brutal and developed a reputation internationally for its terrible cruelty towards civilians, and its widespread use of child soldiers. What ensued was bloody mayhem. Around 70,000 people lost their lives in the nearly 15 years of fighting, while millions lost their homes and many thousands were maimed. The Empire In Africa tells the story behind the brutality, and shines a light on the terrible bloodshed, with the view that future horrors may then end.
In Imperial Grand Strategy renowned linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky focuses on the issue of the invasion of Iraq, and cuts through the ideological fog that surrounds the invasion and occupation, laying waste to the US government’s justifications for them. In the process, Chomsky uncovers the real motivations behind US military aggression: a global imperial plan put in place long before Iraq and that will extend far into the future, unless we do something about it.
In September 2005, Afghanistan held its first parliamentary elections in 35 years. Among the candidates was Malalai Joya, a courageous 27-year-old woman who had ignited outrage among hard-liners when she spoke out against corrupt warlords and criminals at the “Grand Council of tribal elders” in 2003. Enemies of Happiness is a revelatory portrait of this extraordinary freedom fighter and the way she connected with the people of Afghanistan. The film also serves as a snapshot of life and politics in war-torn Afghanistan from this time. As Joya rightly points out several Taliban warlords and wants them prosecuted for their crimes against the Afghan people, she is exposed to several death threats, and has been under constant protection. Can she overcome entrenched views and death threats to help bring democracy to Afghanistan?
Following on from the series Planet Earth which looked at various forms of life across the globe, Planet Earth — The Future highlights the issues of conservation and the future of the environments and species featured in the Planet Earth series. Using interviews with the film-makers and eminent figures from the fields of science, conservation, politics, and theology, the series poses questions around the effectiveness of the environmental movement, and the future of the planet. A lot needs to change in order to ward off catastrophe…
David Attenborough explores just how far climate change is altering our planet—from drought-stricken rainforest to declining polar bears, from flooded homes to bleached coral. Are We Changing Planet Earth? explores the evidence that it is industrial civilisation and the activities of humans which are radically changing the climate…
Nina Hobson, an officer in the Leicestershire police force, leaves the force disillusioned at the rampant culture of sexism, apathy and neglect that is rife amongst the institution. Five years later, Nina returns to the police force, but this time as an undercover journalist to document the culture behind the scenes, blowing the whistle. Filmed over four months, gaining unprecedented access to officers, Nina secretly captures footage first-hand showing the various ways the culture perpetuates itself. Reports of sexual assault and rape are not taken seriously, to the extent that in one scene, a female police officer says that if she was ever raped, she would not report it to the police. We see multiple cases where officers turn away from domestic violence incidents because they do not want to turn up, or do not want to answer emergency calls because they are out to get a meal instead. In another scene, officers are playing poker and indoor cricket rather than attending to others who are working with prisoners or doing patrol work. In another scene, a police officer boasts about how he pretended not to see someone injured and bleeding because he had a football match to watch while on duty. The examples continue. The result is that Undercover Copper not only exposes the brutality of these specific incidents, but posits fundamental questions about the police as an institution itself, embedded in a larger culture that is apathetic, misogynist, and self-interested. It shows just how much needs to be done to turn this around.
Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People analyses how the storytelling of the West has crafted and perpetuated a false stereotypical image of Arabs and Arab culture since the early days of American silent cinema, up to the present with the biggest Hollywood blockbusters. The film shows how the persistence of these stories over time has served to powerfully naturalise and perpetuate prejudice toward Arabs, Arab culture and the Middle East in general, and how this in turn also serves to reinforce the harmful narratives of dominant culture which dehumanise Arabs as a people and negate the visceral political acts carried out against them by the West for decades. By inspiring critical thinking about the social, political, and basic human consequences of leaving these caricatures unexamined, Reel Bad Arabs challenges viewers to recognise the urgent need for counter-narratives to do justice to the diversity and humanity of Arab people, to share the truth about the stories of their lives and their history.
Filmed over three years, Hacking Democracy documents a group of American citizens investigating anomalies and irregularities with the electronic voting systems used during the 2000 and 2004 US Presidential elections. The investigation revolves around the flawed integrity and security of the machines, particularly those made by the Diebold corporation. Could the elections have been rigged?
The Digital Dump — Exposing The Electronics Waste Trade travels to Lagos, Nigeria with the Executive Director of a global environmental organisation called BAN based in Seattle. The film is recorded over the course of 10 hectic days, during the week that Hurricane Katrina hit, documenting the reality of an escalating global trade in toxic, obsolete, discarded computers and other e-waste collected in North America and Europe. The waste is sent to countries like Nigeria by waste brokers and so-called recyclers. In Lagos, while there is some ability to repair and refurbish old electronic equipment, local experts explain that of the estimated 500 40-foot containers shipped to Lagos each month, as much as 75% of the imports are simply junk and are not economically repairable or marketable. Consequently, this e-waste is being discarded and routinely burned, despite the legal status of it as being hazardous materials.
Disarm travels a dozen countries to look at how—despite a global ban—millions of anti-personnel landmines continue to be used to claim victims daily in more than eighty countries. The forces challenging the achievement of a landmine-free world are predictable. As such, the film mixes the views of diplomats and governments against that of victims, de-miners, soldiers, campaigners and aid workers to explore the issues that both hinder and further the case against the use of landmines across the world.
Walmart is an iconic American company, known worldwide for selling cheap retail goods. While economists and global marketers call Walmart a success, there are many stories of mistreatment of employees, and a general feeling of mistrust and discontent among the businesses it has destroyed, such as local community stores. Walmart — High Cost Of Low Prices highlights that it is worth being aware of the labour, social and corporate governance practices of companies that you do business with…
What drives a young Westerner to volunteer as a peace activist in the Middle East? Visit Palestine follows Caiomhe Butterly—a young woman from Dublin, Ireland; who is one of a growing number of volunteers who risk their own lives to intervene in the long-running and bloody conflict of the occupation of Palestine. Activists such as Butterly are usually stereotyped as lunatics, meddlers or saints. This film offers a first-hand insight into a brave, honest, determined yet self-critical woman who takes direct action to the limit, with no quest for glory. The film also serves as a real conduit into the everyday lives of Palestinians, fighting for their lives…
Ghosts of Abu Ghraib examines the sexual abuse, torture, rape, and murder of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison at the hands of US military police in the fall of 2003. The film shows how the abuse was systemic of the military-intelligence complex, flawing the “bad apples” theory that was sprouted through the media at the time. By making reference to Stanley Milgrim’s obedience experiments of the 1960s, the film asks: How can ordinary people take these actions? And what orders came from the chain of command?
Class Dismissed examines the role of television in the ways in which race, gender, and sexuality intersect with class, offering a more complex reading of television’s often one-dimensional representations. The patterns inherent in the depictions of working class people are as either clowns or social deviants, stereotypical portrayals that reinforce the myth of meritocracy and have systemic social implications. By citing plenty of examples from today’s sitcoms, reality shows, police dramas, and daytime talk shows, Class Dismissed links television’s portrayals to negative cultural attitudes and public policies that directly affect the lives of working class people. A new media must be envisioned and created.
Is the threat of radical Islamism as a massive, sinister organised force of destruction—specifically in the form of al-Qaeda—a myth perpetrated by politicians across the globe, but particularly the American neo-conservatives, in order to unite and justify empire? This series of films charts the rise of both groups and movements, drawing comparisons between them and their origins, to provide much-needed and missing context to the War of Terror.
Moving Beyond Myth focuses on the sexual dilemmas and difficult life choices young girls face as they come of age in contemporary American culture. Challenging long-held myths about girlhood, the film draws on the insights of girls themselves to explore and shed light on their actual lived experience as they navigate an increasingly hyper-sexualized society. The voices of a diverse range of girls are supplemented with accessible analysis from leading experts on sexuality and society.
In 1974, a young Patty Hearst became a media icon after she was kidnapped from her apartment by a group calling itself the Symbionese (taken from the word ‘symbiosis’) Liberation Army (SLA). At the time, Patty was an impressionable college student who happened to be the granddaughter of the infamous newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Hoping to spark a class war in America, for ransom, the SLA instructed the Hearsts to make a multi-million dollar donation of food to the poor. Two months later, Patty appeared to have joined forces with the SLA. As the spectacle unfolds, journalists camp outside the Hearst’s home and become consumed by the story, some even questioning the role of the media in the saga. Guerrilla serves to document some of what happened to Patty Hearst during this time, the effects of Stockholm Syndrome, how and why the SLA was formed, and what ultimately went awry.
This film profiles Howard Zinn, historian, political scientist and author, who tells us the personal stories about more than thirty years of fighting for social change, from teaching through to recent protests against war. A former bombardier in World War II, Zinn emerged in the civil rights movement in the United States as a powerful voice for justice. Although a fierce critic, Zinn gives the viewer inspiration in that by learning from history and engaging politically, we can each do our part to make a difference in the world.
With its tropical beaches and buzzing nightlife, the island of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand attracts many hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. The island is renowned in the West for sex tourism, and every year many male tourists form relationships with women working in the bars of Koh Samui. But how does this work? And what dynamics are at play? Love Me Long Time is a film that speaks to the men that travel back and forth to Thailand for these holiday romances that are for sale in a country ravaged by the oppression of the west, human trafficking and prostitution driven by poverty. Do these men know what they’re doing?
Ghosts of Rwanda marks the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda—a state-sponsored massacre in which some 800,000 Rwandans were methodically hunted down and murdered, as the United Nations and other states refused to intervene. The film examines the social, political, and diplomatic failures that converged to enable the genocide to occur. Through interviews with key government officials, diplomats, soldiers, and survivors of the slaughter, Ghosts of Rwanda presents first-hand accounts of the genocide from those who lived it—the diplomats on the scene who thought they were building peace only to see their colleagues murdered; the Tutsi survivors who recount the horror of seeing their friends and family slaughtered by Hutu friends and co-workers; and the UN peacekeepers in Rwanda who were ordered not to intervene in the massacre happening all around them.
Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! speaks about the mainstream media’s coverage of US interventions around the world and demonstrates the link between corporate media and government, and how this plays a major part in selling war at home and abroad…
Based on the book of the same title by Juliet Schor, The Overspent American scrutinises the form of consumerism ever-pervasive in this current era that is driven by upscale spending and debt; shaped and reinforced by a media system driven by commercial interests. We’re encouraged from all angles to spend money we don’t have, working longer hours than ever before. Illustrated with hundreds of examples, The Overspent American draws attention to both the financial and social costs of this giant consumption machine, where the frivolous and relentless search for “happiness” and identity is espoused by advertising.
A few weeks after the September 11 attacks in 2001, the United States congress quickly passed the USA PATRIOT Act—a complicated and controversial law which was purportedly required to help with tracking future terrorist threats. Unconstitutional sets out to explain this law and examine its true impact. Citing a trove of examples from people whose lives have been directly effected, what we see is how law enforcement has rounded up Muslims and people with Arabic names to detain them for wild unspecified lengths of time without due process or even charges; the massive curtailment of civil liberties; erosion of enshrined privacy rights, increases in surveillance; and the abuses of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.