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?
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 wrong.
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…
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.
Unconstitutional investigates the ways in which the civil liberties of citizens and immigrants have been rolled back in the United States since September 11, 2001; and the PATRIOT Act. The film details some stories behind those affected—from law-abiding store clerks to United States Olympians unable to travel.
Amidst the supposed growing prosperity of India, there remains a dark underbelly of poverty. Born Into Brothels chronicles this through the lens of Kolkata’s red light district where film-maker Zana Briski inspires a group of children of the prostitutes of the area to photograph the most reluctant subjects of it. As the kids excel in their new found art, will this help them have a chance for a better life away from the miserable poverty that threatens to crush their dreams?
Rebel Without A Pause follows renowned linguist and activist, Noam Chomsky through discussions and talks on various world events such as the invasion of Iraq, the September 11th attacks and the War on Terror. Chomsky also weaves in accounts of media manipulation, social control, and discusses the workings of the politics of fear. The film combines footage from large forums to small interactive discussions on these topics, as well as reflections from others…
The hypocrisy of the United States government is scrutinized in Distorted Morality—a scathing thesis against war and the invasion of Iraq, presented by renowned scholar Noam Chomsky in 2002. Chomsky sets fair and logical parameters to test his ideas, before outlining the reasons why the United States post-9/11 “war on terror” is a logical absurdity. This, according to Chomsky’s carefully supported analysis, is because the US government has been, and continues to be, a major supporter of state-supported terrorism; favoring retaliatory or preemptive aggression over mediation in the world court, and avoiding accountability by excluding itself from the globally accepted definition of terrorism. Explored also are numerous historical examples to support.
The United States proudly self-identifies as the major purveyor of peace and democracy across the world. But does this perception of self match up to the actual policies and history of military actions throughout recent decades? Are the United States’ seemingly constant wars of aggression befitting to achieving peace? These are some of the central dichotomies addressed in this short film In Whose Interest? We see internal documentation of the US involvement in countries like Vietnam or Guatemala which indicate that the main factors motivating American foreign policy are clearly economic concerns. In Guatemala, the United States overthrows a democratically elected government to install a military-backed dictatorship that is suitable to the American United Fruit corporation. A similar pattern emerges in Vietnam, El Salvador and East Timor. Perhaps most oppressive yet is US policy in the Middle East, where the US provides Israel with more than $3 billion per year in military assistance—more aid than they give to the entire continent of Africa. We see how American policy is determined by the corporate sector, tightly linked to the state, which makes decisions in their own self-interest—in stark opposition to the rhetoric of democracy…
The belief that good triumphs over evil resonates deeply through the religious and political discourses of dominant culture. It is also a common theme in the entertainment media where the struggle between good and evil is frequently resolved through violence. The negative impacts of media violence on children has long been a public concern, but it is even more troubling when military violence, both in the news and in entertainment, is often glorified as heroic and noble. Beyond Good & Evil: Children, Media & Violent Times is a look at how mass communication distorts and manipulates language and visual imagery. It shows viewers how the media’s overriding objective of satisfying an audience converts real issues surrounding race, war, and violence into nothing more than spectacle.
This short film, put together by activists, documents the extreme proliferation of e-waste throughout Asia. The effects of the waste is catastrophic, as computers and electronics contain some of the most hazardous materials—cadmium, barium, plastics, mercury, lead, Brominated Flame Retardants and dioxins. Working at the nexus of human rights and environment, this film confronts the issues of environmental justice at a macro level, by provoking the need to stop this trade and address the issues. With over 80% of e-waste coming from the United States alone being exported throughout Asia, the problem is only to increase unless things change, especially in the age of planned obsolescence and consumer ‘upgrades.’
Ammo for the Info Warrior is a two part series of collections of short films by the Guerrilla News Network (GNN), an independent news organisation with a mission to expose young people to important global news and information free from corporate filters. Each part consists of a selection of 5 to 10 minute videos covering a range of stories, from the violent diamond trade in Sierra Leone; to the PR industry’s manipulation of public opinion; to analysis of IBM and its role in the Holocaust; to CopWatch, a movement of people keeping police accountable; and short slam poetry clips about the business of hip-hop. Ammo for the Info Warrior experiments with format with the aim of being an innovative educational tool to tackle serious socio-political issues for a generation brought up on MTV. It can be a catalyst for discussion and debate, encouraging the viewer to develop skills in critical thinking and analysis.
American Porn is an investigation on the forces behind the explosion of pornography available throughout the United States. Through interviews with the pornographers themselves, actors, lawyers, federal and state prosecutors, activists, and a Wall Street analyst covering the industry, American Porn examines the business ties between respected corporations and porn companies, the rise of extreme hardcore porn, and a political battle of the times…
Between 1999 and 2000, nearly 8,000 women reported a rape to the police. Out of those women, 90 per cent identified their attacker, and DNA evidence helped place the accused at the scene of the crime. But the admission of a prior relationship with the perpetrator counted against the victim. In any case, the conviction rate for rape is unbelievably low—only nine convictions for every 100 cases reported. Film-maker Rachel Coughlan follows the heart-wrenching stories of five women to win their fight for justice, showing in the process the systematic failures of the legal system in why such cases—the ones that do even make it to court—often don’t result in conviction.
Deep Trouble covers the concerns of commercial fishing from a global perspective. Many species of fish that are eaten every day all around the world are now seriously threatened or are critically endangered. The Southern Bluefin Tuna for one. Mainstream awareness of where market fish come from let alone how endangered they might be is minimal. As fish stocks dry up, supermarkets are now offering new and strange species from the deep sea. Bizarre-looking creatures are being dragged up in vast fishing nets from depths of 1,000 metres or more, and the methods used to catch them are horrifying. How sustainable is this?
The Disney Company’s massive success in the 20th century is based on creating an image of innocence, magic and fun for kids. Its animated films in particular are almost universally lauded as wholesome family entertainment, enjoying massive popularity among children and endorsement from parents and teachers around the world. This film takes a close look at Disney, to analyse the world these films create for kids and the stories they tell and propagate; contextualised by the cultural pedagogy of Disney’s conglomerate mass-media control and vast corporate power. Including interviews with social commentators, media scholars, child psychologists, kindergarten teachers, multicultural educators, college students and children, Mickey Mouse Monopoly provokes audiences to confront assumptions about an institution that is virtually synonymous with childhood pleasure.
Unprecedented looks at voting irregularities in the controversial presidential election in the United States from the year 2000. With a focus on the swing state of Florida, the recount, the ensuing supreme court decision in December, and future elections; the film also shows how fundamentally, many people–the majority being African-American–have outright been refused the ability to vote by a clever mix of legalese, electronic voting machines, political maneuvering and simple racism. A 1868 law prevented felons from voting–originally crafted to keep blacks from the polls in the wake of the Civil War–was resurrected in 2000, used to create a computerised list of people supposedly illegible to vote. The list had weird parameters and included as many as 57,000 to 91,000 non-felons; overwhelmingly targeting people of colour. On election day, these people were turned away at the polls. The role of electronic voting machines is also examined, as they are totally unaccountable and do not allow audits. The argument is made because of copyright over the software and trademarks. The machines also do not give paper receipts, so there is no physical evidence in case of the need for a recount. How does the United States–the so-called and self-proclaimed world-famous democracy–fair as one in light of this?
In the aftermath of the events of September 11th, 2001; MIT linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky found himself called upon to provide much-needed analysis and historical perspective regarding this moment in American history. In the months following, Chomsky gave dozens of talks on four continents, conducted scores of media interviews, and published a book called ’9-11.’ In this film and in his book, Chomsky places the events of September 11 in the context of American foreign intervention throughout the postwar decades—in Vietnam, Central America, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Beginning with the fundamental principle that any exercise of violence against civilian populations is terrorism—regardless of whether the perpetrator is a well-organized band of Muslim extremists or the most powerful nation-state in the world—Chomsky challenges the United States to apply the moral standards it demands of others to its own actions.
The Life of Mammals is a ten part series that follows the evolution and habits of various mammal species around the world. Each episode looks at one or several closely related mammal groups and discusses the different facets of their day-to-day existence and evolutionary origins.
Mainstream media regularly uses public opinion polls in the reporting of news and political analytics. But how do media outlets report polls and to what end? In this interview, author and academic Justin Lewis demonstrates the way in which polling data is used by the media to not just reflect what populations supposedly think, but instead to construct public opinion itself.
The Blue Planet is a comprehensive series of films about the natural history of the world’s oceans. Each film in the series examines a different aspect of marine life—from the Arctic and Antarctica, to the depths of wide open oceans and coral reefs, to the coastlines and tides of the Galápagos Islands, Russia, Australia, Argentina and elsewhere.
Focusing directly on the world of commercial images, Advertising and the End of The World asks some basic questions about the cultural messages emanating from advertising: Do these messages deliver what they claim—happiness and satisfaction? Can we think about our collective as well as our private interests? And, can we think long-term as well as short-term?
30 Frames A Second is an immersive first-person account of the events that unfolded during the week the World Trade Organisation came to Seattle in the United States, November 1999. The film is assembled from the perspective of 15-year veteran network-news cameraman Rustin Thompson, who became disillusioned with mainstream media and hence covered the WTO as an independent journalist. As such, even with press credentials for the event, Thompson is swept into the retribution of the state and police power which hit at the protests with tear gas, pepper spray, and police abuse. For him and the protesters alike, it begs the question about the functioning of the so-called democracies we live in, where civil liberties and human rights are curtailed in favour of facilitating the vast corporatocracy and global economic empire—precisely one of the points that sparked protests in the first place…
Behind the Screens explores how Hollywood movies have largely become vehicles for the ulterior motives of advertising and marketing by the studios and media owners, rather than genuine storytelling or simple entertainment in their own right. By showing examples from popular movies such as Wayne’s World, Forrest Gump, The Lion King, Summer of Sam, and Toy Story, this documentary demonstrates how this trend toward hypercommercialism—through product placement, tie-ins, merchandising and cross-promotions—comes to define the modern movie. What are the problems with this, as well as the cultural and social impacts? Combined with analysis from film scholars, critics, political economists, and an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, Behind the Screens presents accessible arguments to these questions.
We tend to think of slavery as one of the points in Colonial History’s dark past—an offence against humanity that was abolished in the 18th century. But slavery is rampant like never before. It’s just that today the slaves are well hidden in plain sight. The global economy has enabled the immense wealth of the West, giving rise to strengthening a sinister market in slaves throughout Africa, Asia, South America, Britain and the United States. This film sets out to discover where slavery is flourishing, why it’s touching all of our lives, and how we can challenge it.
Fight For Country tells the story of one of Australia’s largest ever land rights and environmental campaigns, to stop the building of a second uranium mine within the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, Australia. In 1998 the issue came to a head when Indigenous elders and activists called on people to come from around Australia and the world to blockade the construction of the mine and proposed ‘uranium deposits’, collectively called Jabiluka. The film follows activists and speaks with Aboriginal people about the impacts of the mine, following the community response and protest actions against the mines development, where over 500 people were arrested in the course of the eight-month blockade.
Over three programmes David Attenborough travels from Kenya to California to investigate the contesting claims about the current state of our planet. In the first programme he examines the extinction crisis, measuring the disappearance of some species against the mass of life that still remains undiscovered. Then the crisis is explored further by looking at the root causes, where finally, the last programme asks: What are the possible courses of action open to us to sustain the future of life?
After a string of popular protests in Seattle against the World Trade Organisation in 1999, tens of thousands reemerged to challenge the International Monetary Fund and World Bank at their April 2000 meeting in Washington DC. Once again, media activists were on the spot to provide the non-corporate coverage you just won’t find anywhere else. Breaking the Bank provides an informative background on the history and impact of the IMF and World Bank, and features extensive coverage of the events in Washington against the powerful organisations that are killing the planet.
At the time of making for this film, the year 2000, computer games represented a $6 billion a year industry, and one out of every ten households in the United States owned a Sony Playstation—numbers that have no-doubt since skyrocketed. Back then, children played an average of ten hours per week—a stat also since to have increased today—and yet, despite capturing the attention of millions of these kids, video games remain one of the least scrutinized cultural industries. Game Over seeks to address this fastest growing segment of the media, through engaging questions of gender, race and violence. Game Over offers a much needed dialogue about the complex and controversial topic of video game violence, and is designed to encourage viewers to think critically about the games they play.
Director Dag Yngvesson begins making a documentary about the porn industry, until he is asked by a desperate director to shoot film for him and his next porn movie. After Yngvesson agrees, he is led deeper and deeper into the world of porn, speaking frankly with many of the industries most famous icons, such as Jeanna Fine, Bill Margold and a 19-year-old newcomer named Selena who discusses her career choice on film with her mother. Viewers are invited into many areas of the industry previously unseen, let alone discussed, including the real lives of the performers and the inner workings of the industry…
During a ten-hour period in January 1995, Annabel Chong had sex with 251 men in front of cameras. The event was a world record and the resulting video sold more than 40,000 copies, starting a trend of record-breaking gang-bang pornography. Chong states that she intended for this act to “challenge the notion of women as passive sex objects,” and added, “I wanted to take on the role of the stud. The more [partners], the better.” Sex: The Annabel Chong Story revisits the story of that day and connects it to Chong’s life as a student and as the daughter of a middle-class Chinese couple in Singapore. She talks about her decisions, and the film also follows her to an AIDS test after the world-record-setting recording where she also self-harmed and was never paid the $10,000 she was promised. The film closes on route home to Singapore, where Chong visits her parents who do not know about her dealings with the porn world, while friends and professors do. Should she tell her mother?
In the early 1940s, hundreds of thousands of people unknowingly became test subjects in toxins experiments and biological weapons tests conducted by the United States government. LSD tested on civilians, nerve gas sprayed into suburbs, hospital patients injected with plutonium, children exposed to biological and chemical agents just to see what would happen…the list goes on. And in most if not all cases, tests were carried out without the knowledge or consent of those involved. In 1996, evidence of these secret operations hit the news, uncovering a history of secret operations and covert projects that cast a large shadow over the operations of US military and intelligence agencies, to this day. Experiments with biological weapons and the testing of chemical warfare were only part of the story…
Globalisation has gone to great lengths to coerce many countries around the world to open ‘free trade zones’ for Western markets, where businesses receive special tax benefits and other rewards for operating factories and exploiting cheap labour. The argument, as is always cited, is for growth of the global economy. Free Trade Slaves sets out to examine these ideas by looking at the realities of such practice. Told from the perspective of the workers in Sri Lanka, El Salvador, Mexico and Morocco; the film exposes systemic human rights abuses, harrowing environmental destruction, birth defects and other long lasting health problems and social issues. The filmmakers suggest that workers around the world need to assert the right to unionise and organise together to demand and retain decent conditions, and that consumers should do their part by boycotting companies that continue to abuse people and the environment.
This experimental film recounts the histories of plane hijackings and bombings throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s, and pits them against the media reporting of such events and the real-politick of the time to show the interplay between terrorism, political narratives and control of society. We see how aspects of the interplay have changed over time, and how the media culture has turned acts of terror into apolitical carnage-seeking voyeurism. Also presented by taking this view, is a commentary on how this culture has a hyperactive focus on terrorism while other much more deathly tragedies are ignored merely because they are mundane and non-threatening to political power. For example, more people die painful deaths every year by slipping in bathtubs than by any terrorist attack. This reveals the priorities of those in power, with the cultural focus on fearmomgering as a means for social control, and a disillusionment of the public in the age of decline.
The insane and horrific history of the development of nuclear weapons is examined first-hand in Trinity and Beyond. The film makes use of extensive archive footage from declassified military sources, where the sources themselves speak about the development of nuclear weapons, revealing the calamitous results of use. From the United States’s Trinity test of 1945, to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; to the rapid increase in testing and proliferation by states across the globe, culminating to the first Chinese atomic bomb test in 1964, Trinity and Beyond is a stark reminder of this culture’s insanity and death urge, and how—unless it is stopped—the expanding threat it continues to pose draws in, literally, the prospect of life on this planet for generations to come.