Filmmaker Darryl Roberts goes on a five year journey to examine this culture’s burgeoning obsession with physical beauty and perfection, showing how increasingly unattainable images contribute to the rise in low self-esteem, body dismorphia, and eating disorders for young women and girls who also happen to be the beauty industry’s largest consumers. In almost 40,000 media messages a year, young people are being told that unless you look like supermodels and rock stars, you’re not good enough for anyone. In 2004 alone, people across the United States spent $12.4 billion on cosmetic surgery. America the Beautiful explores why these people are spending so much money to cover up their discontent that is mainly driven by advertising. What are the true costs of this culture’s obsession with youth, plastic notions of beauty, and impossibly slender physiques? Who actually benefits from this high-priced journey towards a fake ideal, and does it justify an entire nation’s psychosis?
Poisoned Waters investigates some of the root causes of what we see worldwide with ecological collapse, dead-zones and pollution effecting oceans, rivers and watersheds. With a focus on major waterways in the United States such as the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound, the film follows the culmination of decades of evidence that today’s systemic and growing environmental collapse comes not only from the toxic activities of industry, agriculture and massive suburban development; but also from the permeated satiety of chemicals in prolific consumer products such as face-creams, deodorants, prescription medicines and household cleaners. This is a startling reminder of the compounding threat facing our world and the need to act imperatively.
With humour and refreshing candour, Red Moon provides a fascinating, often ironic, take on the absurd and frequently dangerous cultural stigmas and superstitions surrounding women’s menstruation. As educational as it is liberating, the film functions as both a myth-busting overview of the realities of menstruation, and a piercing cultural analysis of the ways in which struggles over meaning and power have played out through history on the terrain of women’s bodies.
Generation M looks at misogyny and sexism in mainstream media, exploring how negative definitions of femininity and hateful attitudes toward women get constructed and perpetuated throughout popular culture. The film tracks this across a broad and disturbing range of media phenomena: from the hyper-sexualization of commercial products aimed at girls, to the explosion of violence against women in video games aimed at boys; from the hysterical sexist rants of popular hip-hop artists and talk-radio shock-jocks, to the continually harsh, patronizing caricature of women found in virtually every area of media. Generation M posits the consequences of misogyny in all of its forms, showing that when we devalue more than half the population based on gender, we harm everyone—boys and men, women and girls alike.
To many in both business and government, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power is truly moved into the hands of the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? The Century of the Self tells the untold and controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society. How is the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interest?
The Planet is a stylised observational video commentary that brings together an overview of the many global changes set about by industrial civilisation. Viewed through the myriad connections between consumerism and the false notion of a perpetually expanding economy on a finite planet, the film peers across the globe to reveal systemic exploitation; species extinction driven by industrial agriculture, logging, mining, manufacturing, pollution, the age of oil and plastic, etc; climate change; carrying capacity and population growth; while also positing that we—as in you and me—can do something, anything, to stop the destruction.
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…
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…
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.
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.
Spin the Bottle critiques the role that popular culture plays in glamorising excessive drinking and high-risk behaviour, in contrast to the ways alcohol affects the lives of real young men and women in reality. This film decodes the power and influence of seductive media images to show how they shape personal identity when linked to the use of alcohol. Nowhere is this link more apparent than on America’s college campuses. By exploring the party scene, Spin the Bottle also shows the difficulties young people have in navigating a cultural environment saturated with messages about gender and alcohol. Interviews with health professionals provide a clear picture of how drinking impacts student health and academic performance, but it is the students’ own experiences and reflections that tell the real story behind alcohol’s alluring public and cultural image.
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.
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.
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?
War Zone is a short film about street harassment. Filmmaker Maggie Hadleigh-West walks crowded urban streets armed with a camera and microphone, trailed by one or two women also with cameras. Whenever a man harasses her, with ogling or words, she turns the camera on him, moves in close, and questions his behaviour. The questions are not usually for dialogue but more for making him as uncomfortable as he’s made her. More than 50 such encounters are included: the men react with bravado, embarrassment, or anger. None apologise. Interspersed are the filmmaker’s voice-over stories of growing up and dealing with men, as well as interviews with several women who talk about how they handle similar street harassment and what they feel about it. What does it feel like to be a woman on the street in a cultural environment that does nothing to discourage men from heckling, following, touching or disparaging women in public spaces?
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?
Is the human population going to outstrip the Earth’s food supply? The effects of modern agriculture not only lead to a short term food surplus which quickly slipped as population boomed, but agriculture itself causes huge environmental problems such as soil erosion, salinity and chemical pollution—all further illustrating an impossible system in perpetuity. Food or Famine looks at projects in North America, Chile, Indonesia, Africa and India which are participating in a worldwide movement to return to local food growing methods based on the land and healthy ecological principles. The film also examines the worldwide imbalance between food consumption and production, stoking the need to confront the mounting challenges ahead…
By addressing the question of violence and the media from a number of different angles, The Killing Screens presents a comprehensive view on how to think about the effects of the media environment in new and complex ways. In contrast to the relatively simplistic behaviourist model, that “media violence causes real-world violence,” renowned media scholar and researcher George Gerbner shows us how to think about the psychological, political, social, and developmental impacts of growing up and living within a cultural environment of pervasive violent imagery and narratives. What are some of the impacts of this culture and what can be done about it?
The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power is an 8-part series based on Daniel Yergin’s book by the same name, that captures the panoramic history of the largest industry in the world and traces it’s changing face over the decades. Each episode in the series focuses on an era of oil, from beginning to today; while examining the connections and ramifications of an industry that literally transformed global political and economic landscapes—while continuing to make its mark…
The filmmaker questions her sister, herself and others about the dreams and hopes they had growing up as girls in contrast to the reality they now face as women. Interviewees include a former Miss California contestant, a judge, a banker, an electrician, a secretary, and adolescent girls. They talk about childhood, athletics, careers, motherhood, body image, sexual assault and self-esteem. Made nearly 30 years ago, this film documents a growing awareness of issues affecting women. But have things changed today?