When modern antidepressants like Prozac were launched in the late 1980s, they were quickly heralded as wonder drugs for treating anxiety and depression with few side effects. While many say they have benefited from taking the drugs, there is an increasing body of evidence that reveal physical and mental side effects of the drugs that are wide-ranging and are often downplayed. From headaches and brain fog, to loss of sexual function and suicidal thoughts. The Antidepressant Story speaks to patients grappling with side effects such as these and asks if this multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry is really helping.
Since the late 1980s, BBC news crews have filmed all across the Soviet Union and Russia, but only a tiny portion of their footage was ever used for news reports. The rest was left unseen on tapes in Moscow. Filmmaker Adam Curtis obtains these tapes and uses them to chronicle the collapse of the Soviet Union, the rise of capitalist Russia and its oligarchs, and the effects of this on Russian people of all levels of society, leading to the rise to power of Vladimir Putin, and today’s invasions of Ukraine. The films take you from inside the Kremlin, to the frozen mining cities in the Arctic circle, to tiny villages of the vast steppes of Russia, and the strange wars fought in the mountains and forests of the Caucasus.
Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that protected a women’s right to an abortion, had not yet been handed down, meaning the procedure was illegal throughout most of the United States, forcing women with unwanted pregnancies to turn to exploitative abortion providers (like the Mafia) or resort to dangerous methods to self-induce an abortion. Using code names, blindfolds, and safe houses, a group of brave women built an underground service for women seeking safe, affordable, illegal abortions calling themselves JANE. Ultimately, the Jane Collective provided close to 11,000 abortions by the time Roe v. Wade came into effect. Through interviews with the former Janes, this film portraits the history of JANE, and reminds the viewer of their commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of other women was a measured, intelligent response to the inadequacies of a system that refused to fend for its own.
The murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020, was arguably a pivotal event in the history of race and policing in the United States. Police on Trial shows, Chauvin’s encounter with Floyd was not the first time the Minneapolis police officer used excessive force on a Black citizen. Nor was it the first time that questions were raised around the culture of the Minneapolis Police Department itself. The film draws on reporting from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and features never-before-published police cam video of Derek Chauvin using excessive force years before George Floyd’s death, to document the trial and murder-conviction of Chauvin, and the various responses for police accountability and reform in Minneapolis.
Facing Beauty examines the explosive growth of the plastic surgery industry, by looking through China’s beauty obsession and the social media influencers that are driving its mindset. A mobile app has captured the population by promoting an “ideal ratio in human facial features,” where users’ faces are assessed and given a score. The app then draws up plans for surgeries to lower that score, referring users to endorsed clinics, driving both non-invasive and invasive surgeries and procedures. Now, demand for those procedures is so widespread among the country’s youth population, it’s estimated the industry will be worth US$200 billion by 2030. This growth in the industry has led to an expansion of ‘beauty’ institutions that employ staff without adequate medical qualifications or protections, and even though some procedures have been banned and the negative health impacts shown, demand continues to increase at fever pitch.
The Power of Big Oil is a three-part series that investigates the decades-long failure to confront the threat of climate change and the role of the fossil fuel industry. The series presents a parade of former oil company scientists, lobbyists, and public relations strategists who lay bare how the biggest petroleum firm in the United States, Exxon, and then the broader petroleum industry globally, moved from attempting to understand the causes of a global heating to a concerted campaign to hide the making of an environmental catastrophe. Over three episodes—Denial, Doubt, Delay—the series documents the corporate cooptation of science, the manipulation of public opinion, and political figureheads that mirror conduct by other industries—from big tobacco to the pharmaceutical companies responsible for the opioid epidemic.
In the United States, a year after Joe Biden’s inauguration, around two-thirds of Republican voters believe his election was illegitimate, and the idea that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump is now a defining issue of the Republican Party. Yet the story of how lies about election fraud made their way to the center of American politics has not been fully told. Plot to Overturn the Election traces the hidden sources of misinformation about the 2020 election, demonstrating how a handful of people have had an outsized impact on the current crisis of democratic legitimacy.
Mega-corporations like Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook are incredibly powerful, and their growth shows no signs of slowing down. The pandemic has only them more influential. Experts have long watched as they breach antitrust laws, while also receiving special treatment when it comes to paying low wages, avoiding taxes, flouting laws, and even making their […]
For several years, PBS Frontline has collaborated with ProPublica to investigate the rise of extremism in the United States. In the aftermath of the January 6th riot at the Capitol building, Frontline, ProPublica and Berkeley Journalism’s Investigative Reporting Program teamed up to examine how far-right extremist groups had evolved in the wake of the deadly 2017 Charlottesville rally. American Insurrection is a report that draws on this extensive background to examine the latest developments and pose questions about where these extremist movements may be headed.
The Power of the Fed investigates how the United States central bank’s actions have played out over the years on Wall Street versus Main Street, since the last financial crash of 2008. The film traces how the experiment the Fed began in 2008 has been dramatically ratcheting up, peaking with the COVID-19 crisis in 2020. But, of course, rather than help correct from the huge corruption and financial abstractions that caused the 2008 crash, the fed has doubled down on its policies of “quantitative easing” which have gone on to help widen the greatest inequality of wealth in history, pushing financial products even further removed from the economy, driving inflation, automation, and worsening the impending cycles of boom and bust. The rise of speculative cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has only fueled the mania, as economic volatility increases.
Following the police shootings of Bernardo Palacios Carbajal and George Floyd in the United States, Shots Fired investigates the use of deadly force by police in Utah, with local journalism partner The Salt Lake Tribune. The filmmakers are given rare behind the scenes access to police training, and in the police’s bid to smooth public perceptions, access to discuss tactics and accountability, as well as racial disparities in the way force is used. The film pieces together data and videos from police ‘use of force’ cases, and asks the hard questions about police culture in the United States in general.
Ithaka depicts the incarceration of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange through the experience of his wife Stella Assange and his father John Shipton. Julian Assange faces a 175-year sentence if extradited to the United States. His family members are confronting the prospect of losing Julian forever to the abyss of the justice system. This David-and-Goliath struggle is personal, and, with Julian’s health declining in a British maximum-security prison, the clock is ticking. Through this behind-the-scenes view of the extradition hearing, the films grasp the personal cost paid by Julian and the true cost of truth.
All Light, Everywhere is an arthouse film that traverses the biases of how we see things, told through the use of police body-worn cameras from the Axon corporation. As such surveillance technologies become a fixture in everyday life, the film interrogates the myth of an objective point of view, probing the biases inherent in both human perception, the lens, and the culture driving the surveillance machines—asking what it means to look and see, but also what is not viewed, and the power imbalance of whom watches whom. Through provocative vignettes, the film provides space to dismantle the perpetual insistence that if everything was recorded and processed by purportedly “neutral” sources, then both criminal activity and authoritarian malfeasance would be reduced.
Millions of people around the world are finding work by-the-job online. The “gig economy” is worth more than $5 trillion worldwide, and seemingly growing. But who are these workers? Seduced by the promise of independence, and control over their working hours and income, people around the world that are lured into the gig economy now face the harsh reality of it algorithmically-driven market place: dangerous working conditions, instability, and the precariousness of their work that can stop overnight in the case of deactivation or a bad review. Through committed characters, The Gig is Up shows that the so-called ‘freedom’ that is espoused by this technological economy is only an illusion.
The Conservation Game follows the story of Tim Harrison, an Ohio cop who stumbles upon a bombshell discovery while undercover at an exotic animal auction. He starts to suspect that America’s top television celebrity conservationists may be secretly connected to the exotic pet trade. As his investigation leads deeper into the secret world of the big cat trade, Tim and his team take their fight to the halls of Congress, pressing lawmakers to pass federal legislation that would end the private breeding and exploitation of these endangered animals. But when opposition comes from an unexpected source, Tim is forced to face the demons of his own past, while wrestling with the consequences of exposing his childhood hero.
The War at Home: The Untold History of Class War in the United States is a series that traverses the history of the labour movement and state repression in the United States. The series looks at history through the lens of the working class, from the Haymarket massacre in Chicago in 1886 to the Jim Crow spread in Louisiana, to the Triangle Shirtwaist tragedy of 1911, to the violent strikes and police raids of the Great Depression, and beyond. The series makes the connection between the purging of radicals from unions and the decline of union power in the 1920s, towards the 1960s and beyond.
Misogyny is rampant in this culture, and corporations capitalise on making women hate their bodies. Indeed all aspects of womanhood are commodified, hypersexualised, and squeezed into gender stereotypes. Being female comes at a cost. So it’s no wonder that young people growing up can feel horrible about themselves and their bodies, and further feel confused about what it means to be a woman in today’s world. Into this perfect storm steps queer theory, an ideology born in the 1990s, that tells people that all the confusing feelings they may experience about the world they live in can be fixed not by changing the world, but by changing themselves. The past decade has seen a steep rise in the number of young girls seeking to alter their bodies by undergoing life threatening, irreversible procedures. Dysphoric is a series that explores this concept of gender transition, told through the voices of clinicians, psychiatrists, sociologists, feminists, academics, detransitioners, and concerned citizens and parents. The series also discusses the permanent medical side-effects of hormones and surgeries, the propaganda of corporations that glorify thousands of stereotypical gender presentations coalesced as fashion, the surge in pronoun policing, censorship and the curtailment of speech, language hijacking that calls women “menstruators,” and the many other hurdles women face while trying to question this modern-day misogyny.
9/11: I Was There presents an portrayal of the attack on New York on 11th September 2001, from the perspective of several ordinary people who chose to pick up their video cameras and descend into the chaos that was happening around them on that day. The film is a collage of their personal video diaries, that document the attacks as they unfold, and the aftermath.
Q: Into the Storm is a series that examines the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon that alleges there is a secret cabal of satan-worshipping, cannibalistic paedophiles running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotting against former United States president Donald Trump. Spanning three years and traversing the globe, the series investigates the movement as it grows in scope and political significance, chronicling its evolution in real time, revealing how “Q” used information warfare to game the internet, hijack politics, and manipulate people’s thinking. Filmmaker Cullen Hoback gains unprecedented access to key players in the spectacle, including Jim and Ron Watkins, the father/son team behind the 8chan website that “Q” calls home, and explores their rivalry with Fredrick Brennan, the original creator of the website. The series profiles “Q-tubers,” Q debunkers, political operatives, and journalists who have been closely following the movement since it began in 2017, showing connections between QAnon, President Trump, and political and ex-military operatives, as well as other various right-wing movements associated with 8chan, including “Gamergate” and “Pizzagate” that contextualises QAnon’s influence on culture and politics in the United States.
Can’t Get You Out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World is a six-part series that explores how modern society has arrived to the strange place it is today. The series traverses themes of love, power, money, corruption, the ghosts of empire, the history of China, opium and opioids, the strange roots of modern conspiracy theories, and the history of Artificial Intelligence and surveillance. The series deals with the rise of individualism and populism throughout history, and the failures of a wide range of resistance movements throughout time and various countries, pointing to how revolution has been subsumed in various ways by spectacle and culture, because of the way power has been forgotten or given away.
In the United States and elsewhere, both sides of politics have revelled in spectacle and image for many decades. But when Donald Trump, the billionaire reality-television host became president, a new escalation of image and spectacle engulfed dominant culture. The Trump Show is a series that explores the beguiling spectacle of the Trump years, through interviews with former White House staffers, media managers, campaign directors, and other personalities that were close to Trump during his presidency. The series documents how image has now replaced substance in politics in a totalising way, and how false constructions seek to pave over reality through a culture that is deeply rooted in hyper-individualism, fierce and corrupt competition, ideological dogmatism, and post-modern delusions.
Brazen Hussies documents how a daring and diverse group of women joined forces in Australia to create profound social change, contributing to one of the greatest social movements of the 20th Century. The film weaves archival footage, personal photographs, memorabilia, and lively accounts from the women who reignited the feminist movement in Australia, at times at great personal cost, to show how women began organising around issues such as equal pay, reproductive rights, affordable childcare, and the prevention of family violence and rape. As the story unfolds, these issues go from being dismissed as the outrageous demands of a few “brazen hussies” to becoming crucial elements of mainstream politics. The film documents how ASIO spied on the movement, the pushback from male-dominated media, and the impact of internal struggles, such as the inclusion of lesbians and the relevance of the movement to Aboriginal women. 50 years on, the work of this movement paved the way for where feminism finds itself today. And while the landscape, breadth and diversity of feminism is vastly different, without this movement and the changes it achieved, we wouldn’t be where we are now. Recording and celebrating this important history, offers a valuable opportunity to reassess and discuss where we are now as a society, what gains have been made, what is at risk, and where we are headed.
During the 2019–2020 Hong Kong protests, after 6 months of ongoing actions, and with protesters facing escalating stakes from police shootings and other violent repression, students began to fortify a number of the city’s major universities and occupy vital roads nearby. This lead to a peak moment in the protest movement—the siege of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Protesters gathered at the university to defend their roadblocks, while the police shot tear gas and used water cannons to shower the protesters with water containing blue colouring and chemical irritants. 1,458 canisters of tear gas were fired at protesters, as well as 1,391 rubber bullets, 325 bean bag rounds, and 256 sponge grenades. The city’s hospitals were overwhelmed by the number of protesters needing urgent medical attention. Burn with Us documents a first-hand view of the conflict, and its results, in a fly-on-the-wall style.
Despite decades of environmental impacts and campaigning for bans and other regulations, the plastic industry continues to expand. From 1990 to 2010 alone, production of plastics more than doubled. Fracking has provided cheap natural gas which is also driving down the cost of making plastic. The United States is now one of the world’s largest plastic producers, and industry is investing tens of billions of dollars in new plastic plants. By 2050, it’s estimated that global production of plastic will triple. Alongside, the industry has pushed a greenwashing image of recycling to fend off negative public opinion, and sell more plastic. Plastic Wars examines how this has come to be, using industry documents and former insiders, and presents the urgency of the need for change, now more than ever.
After Truth is about the growing proliferation of modern disinformation, where almost anybody with a computer and social media access can have a powerful platform without oversight, influencing the information experiences of billions of people. The melting pot is catalysed by Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, 4chan, and other websites that spread disinformation to huge audiences with a profit incentive, competing to capture everyone’s attention. After Truth asks the question about where all this is heading, by exemplifying events such as Jade Helm, Seth Rich, and Pizzagate, but also profiling some major and minor personalities involved in spreading disinformation, conspiracy theories, fear, and uncertainty. With an empire in collapse, and physical reality being increasingly replaced by popular postmodern theories of “there is only subjective truth,” this film not only presents the challenge of returning to what is real, but the task of stopping disinformation from continuing to divide, confuse, distract, and destroy.
What does it mean when so-called Artificial Intelligence systems increasingly govern all of our civil rights and social interactions? What are the consequences for the people AI systems are biased against? When MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini discovers that many facial recognition technologies do not accurately detect dark-skinned faces nor properly detect the faces of women, she delves into an investigation which reveals widespread bias in the algorithms that already drive much of the modern world. As she uncovers, these systems are not neutral, and are already having severe social and political impacts. Coded Bias documents this investigation, and the women who are leading the charge to ensure civil rights are protected from the relentless inertia of technology.
When Hong Kongers took to the streets to protest a controversial extradition bill proposed by China in 2019, it exposed the tensions long brewing in the city. Over two days of conflict, Hong Kong Moments follows a pro-democracy protester, a tea-shop owner, a paramedic, a cab driver, a police officer, and two politicians with conflicting politics as the demonstrations shoehorn the political into the personal. On September 21, 2019, protestors from three districts join forces, resulting in unprecedented violence. Just 10 days later on October 1, the National Day of the People’s Republic of China, previously undecided onlookers show their stripes. Thoughts transform into action in this demonstration of how mercurial and personal Hong Kong’s politics have become.
The Social Dilemma brings together former product directors and designers of Facebook, Google, Instagram, Pintrest, Twitter, and so on, to reflect on their creations and face questions about the age of addiction, information manipulation, and algorithmic social control they’ve ushered in. The creators speak openly about how they themselves took part in this co-optation of society, either naively or with malignant indifference, by designing websites in such a way to influence and manipulate billions of people for corporate interests by using deep psychological and addictive triggers in the human mind. Detailed explanations about how this can play out in the real world are illustrated through dramatisations, which are also expanded upon by experts in psychology, technology, and social studies. The result is a sobering call for emergency damage control, to undo the massive harm that technology companies have unleashed on society unrestrained for the past several decades, at a time of rapid social unravelling.
The Monopoly of Violence is a study of police brutality in France, specifically documenting the gilet jaunes protest movement of 2018 and 2019. But the footage could just as easily have been from the United States, or Hong Kong, or Britain. Citing the work of sociologist Max Weber as a starting point, which shows that the state has the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force, the film expands into the space of questioning a form of policing that descends into systematic brutality and violence. Using footage from demonstrators and independent journalists to ground the analysis, the images are discussed between lawyers, representatives of social movements, academics, police officers, and victims of police aggression. The result is a clarion call for the rights of the citizen, and the accountability and responsibility of the State.
A group of friends become curious about the sustainability of their eating regiments. They instigate a challenge, and send filmmaker Yasi Gerami off on a quest to investigate the sustainability of their eating ideologies. The friends come from different backgrounds and live in Toronto, Canada, but the inquiry takes the story of their food around the globe. As Gerami digs deeper, she realises the inconvenient truths not only about the environmental catastrophes caused by our dependence on mainstream food production methods, but also by the cataclysmic social justice impact of our eating habits in the global south. The film unfolds some popular myths on topics such as plant-based diets, healthy and nutritional foods, ethical eating, food politics, industrial agriculture, and how to attain a sustainable food culture. Sustenance helps the viewer discover these themes, prompting the viewer to question where our food really comes from, and how it genuinely affects the health of other people, other species, and ultimately the entire planet.
United States of Conspiracy investigates the alliance of far-right radio show host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Donald Trump, and long-time Trump associate Roger Stone, and their roles in deepening the battle over truth and lies in an age of disinformation. Drawing on interviews with Stone, former staffers from Jones’ InfoWars website, people who have been directly affected by their conspiracy theories, and experts in how misinformation spreads, we see how once-fringe conspiracy theories have come to be wielded as a pervasive tool at the highest levels of mainstream politics.
A Thousand Cuts is a timely film about modern-day journalism and freedom of the press inside the Philippines where the political space has been usurped by social media disinformation campaigns, celebrity propaganda spectacle, and direct organised political violence. The film comes as the world awaits the verdict of the case against of Maria Ressa, the CEO and founder of the news network Rappler, who has been vocal about holding president Rodrigo Duterte accountable for his government’s much-criticised and violent “war on drugs.” In what is a salient trend of our time, A Thousand Cuts examines the disinformation campaigns and the crackdown on the media, while journalists Maria Ressa and her team place the tools of their trade—and their freedom—on the line in defence of truth and democracy.
Mental illness and suicide have become the greatest threats to school-aged children. Many parents still view dangers to children and teens as primarily physical and external, but they’re missing the real danger: young people spending more time online and less time engaging in real life, free play, and autonomy. While older generations might have learned the value of being outside, household chores, and in-person playtime with friends, the youth of today have fallen prey to smartphones and video games. Childhood 2.0 is an exploration of this dramatic technological and cultural shift, where children and parents face the rise of social networks, mobile devices, and the screen culture, along with addiction, withdrawal, anxiety, depression, online abuse, bullying, the pervasiveness of pornography, sexting, the rise of online pedophilia and sexual predators, the loss of playtime, imagination and autonomy, and the rapid growth of suicide among children and teens. In addition to mental health professionals, the filmmakers speak with a series of concerned parents who have witnessed a profound transformation in their children, especially when placed in contrast to their own beginnings. Then there are the children themselves who speak to the overpowering allure of their devices, the pressures these devices place on them in their daily lives, and the challenge they face when they try to turn away from the screen.
When Dolly Parton sang “9 to 5,” she was doing more than just shining a light on the fate of working women in the United States. Parton was singing the true story of the 9to5 movement that started with a group of secretaries in the early 1970s that wanted change in their workplaces. Their goals were simple: equal pay, fair work, and an end to sexual harassment. As the movement went national, it encapsulated the unique intersection of the women’s movement and the labour movement, as the women worked hard to unionise and press for real change in their workplaces. Featuring interviews with 9to5’s founders, 9to5: The Story of a Movement documents the struggle that changed workplace culture in the United States, and echos today.
In a quarter of a century, the Amazon corporation has propelled Jeff Bezos from ‘online bookseller’ to technology behemoth. He is the richest man on the planet, and the company he founded is one of the most powerful in the world. This documentary investigates Amazon’s rise to corporate rein, revealing the problematic inside-operations that have the public tethered to its services. Former high-level insiders describe Amazon’s obsessive data-gathering operations, that enable the company to use what it knows about us to shape not only the future of retail, but the workplace and technology in synergy. On both sides of the world, politicians and regulators are tardily beginning to question Amazon’s power. But can the public rein in this corporate empire and break its addiction before even more damage is done to the structure of society and the environment?
Jeff Bezos is not only one of the richest men in the world, the vast corporate empire he has built is unprecedented in the history of capitalism. The corporate power to shape everything from the future of work to the future of commerce to the future of technology is unrivaled. The company’s reach into the everyday life of citizens, manipulating their experience and extracting extreme profits, is profound. It’s extraction of labour and giant streams of data is cataclysmic. It’s reach into culture, media, law enforcement, even a deal with the CIA, is indicative. But despite all of this, the company contradictorily claims it is “just a speck.” As regulators around the world tardily start to consider the global impact of Amazon and how to rein in its extreme corporate power, filmmakers Anya Bourg and James Jacoby reveal how Bezos’s plan to build one of the most influential economic and cultural forces in the world has already transpired, and how the job of reining in this pervasive corporate power will be testing in the extreme.
MLK/FBI documents the extent of the FBI’s surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King based on newly declassified files and documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and unsealed by the National Archives. Using these, as well as restored historical video footage, the film explores the United States government’s history of targeting Black activists through surveillance programs specifically aimed the Civil Rights Movement. The film covers the attempts by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI to personally discredit King by collecting recordings and images of his private sexual life with women other than his wife. This was used to denigrate his status within the civil rights movement in the United States. Not all FBI documents have been declassified, but the whole record will be made available public in 2027.
McCarthy chronicles the rise and fall of Joseph McCarthy, the United States senator who came to power after a stunning victory in an election that no one thought he could win. Once in office, he declared that there was a vast conspiracy threatening the United States—not emanating from a rival superpower, but from within. Then, without restraint or oversight, he conducted a vast crusade against those he accused of being “enemies of the state,” a chilling campaign marked by groundless accusations, bullying, intimidation, grandiose showmanship, and cruel victimisation. With lawyer Roy Cohn at his side, McCarthy belittled critics, spinning a web of lies and distortions while spreading fear and confusion. After years in the headlines, he was brought down by his own excesses and overreach.
By the close of the Industrial Revolution, the food supply in the United States was tainted with frauds, fakes, and legions of new and untested chemicals, dangerously threatening the health of the public. The Poison Squad, based on the book by the same name from author Deborah Blum, tells the story of Dr. Harvey Wiley, a government chemist who was determined to banish these dangerous substances from dinner tables, and so took on powerful food manufacturers and their allies. Wiley embarked upon a series of bold and controversial trials on 12 human subjects who would become known as the “Poison Squad.” Following Wiley’s unusual experiments and tireless advocacy, the film charts the path of the forgotten heroes who together laid the groundwork for consumer protection laws in the United States, and ultimately, paved the way for the creation of the Food and Drug Administration.
A 37-year old mum goes undercover as an 11-year old girl to expose the dangers facing kids on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Kik. Left unsupervised, young children can be exposed to online predators, grooming, and psychological abuse within minutes. In 2018 alone, the filmmakers of this project alerted the FBI to 99 child predators. In 2019 that number is more than 300 and counting. Each of these cases represents a real child experiencing real harm, and the challenge of this short film is to help parents and schools understand this new reality, while also acting to bring online predators, groomers, and paedophiles to justice.