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 them 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.
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.
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.
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.
In 2018, Professor Shoshana Zuboff published The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, a monumental book about the new global economy, where the biggest technology corporations extract, manipulate, and trade our personal information, data about our lives, and data about our personalities, on a scale never before possible. How did this happen? In The Big Data Robbery, Zuboff starts with the volatile dot-com boom and bust of the late 1990s and 2000s. How did Google, a company created during that time, survive the bursting of the Internet bubble? Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin discover that the “residual data” that people leave behind in their searches on the Internet is very precious and tradable, and begin as one corporation of many, the Big Data Robbery, extracting and building huge datasets about people. Zuboff takes the lid off Google and Facebook to reveal a merciless form of capitalism in which the citizen itself now serves as a raw material.
Marion Stokes was secretly recording television twenty-four hours a day for thirty years. It started in 1979 with the Iranian Hostage Crisis at the dawn of the twenty-four hour news cycle, and ended in 2012 while the Sandy Hook massacre played on television as Marion passed away. In between, Marion recorded on 70,000 VHS tapes, capturing revolutions, lies, wars, triumphs, catastrophes, bloopers, talk shows, advertising—all of which deeply show how television has shaped the world of today. Remarkably prescient, Marion knew this, and saved it as a form of activism, knowing that archiving everything that was said and shown on television was part of the fight for the truth and historical memory, keeping those in power accountable. At the time, the public didn’t know it, but TV networks themselves were not keeping archives of their material, with huge swathes of recorded history lost. If it wasn’t for Marion, and the Internet Archive that will soon digitise her tapes for prosperity and free public access, these records would be lost forever. This film is about a radical Communist activist, who became a fabulously wealthy recluse archivist, and whose work was unorthodox, but also genius, even though she would pay a profound price for dedicating her life to such a visionary project.
Invasion is a short film about the Unist’ot’en camp, where Wetʼsuwetʼen First Nation peoples have been living on their traditional unceded territory since time immemorial, only to face repeated threats in the past decade by the Canadian government and corporations that are relentlessly pushing to install oil pipelines and other extractive industries on their land. Wetʼsuwetʼen feel they have a sacred duty to protect their land from harm and preserve it for future generations, and so formed the Unist’ot’en camp to resist the colonisers and their destructive ways. Located 1,200 km from Vancouver, the camp is on the shores of the Wedzin Kwah and mouth of Gosnell Creek, as a healing space for Indigenous people and settlers alike, and an active example of decolonisation and resistance.
Behind the Curve documents the resurgence of believers of a flat Earth, as made popular through YouTube videos. The film is a personal exploration of how people became exposed to flat Earth theories (the YouTube algorithm), and how those ideas were reinforced in an echo chamber of social media, rejecting empirical evidence, at a time of increasing countercultural distrust in authority figures and the epistemology of science. The narrative at the core of the film reveals how the screen bubble can envelop a person’s informational exposure, and change their relationships and perceptions in the real world, where confirmation bias is reinforced, making alternative views threatening, and individualism sacrosanct. Information that is contrary to a deeply held belief then becomes increasingly impossible to accept, especially if it has changed your life and circle of friends. So with empathy and a playful warmth, Behind the Curve becomes a warning light to the importance of honest discourse and critical analysis, falsifiability and dogma, but above all, to empathy and understanding of a person’s desire to create meaning and acceptance in a lonely, fragmented culture.
University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson launched into the public eye after he published a controversial video series entitled Professor Against Political Correctness in 2016. Within 2 years, he sells over 3 million copies of his self-help book, appears on numerous television shows, and fills theatres with his lectures. At the same time, he endures a swell of backlash, including that from a former colleague that now labels him as a dangerous threat. After mobilising some on the right for his criticisms of the left, Peterson fends-off being labelled a right-wing figurehead while moving through the media spectacle, arguing his shifting philosophical views. Filmed during this period of Peterson’s rise to fame, and told through family, friends, and foes, The Rise of Jordan Peterson presents a complex kaleidoscopic narrative and personal portrait, enabling the viewer to examine Peterson in several different ways, while considering his wide and often conflicting range of perspectives and social commentary.
Artifishal is a film about people, rivers, and the fight for the future of wild fish and the environment that supports them. It explores wild salmon’s slide toward extinction, threats posed by fish hatcheries and fish farms, and this culture’s relentless pursuit of engineering, mechanisation, and commodification in the face of environmental collapse. The film shows how fish hatcheries and fish farms threaten wild salmon populations, which in-turn has wide effects on the rest of the environment, but instead of helping wild salmon recover, this culture powers on with hatcheries and farms at great cost, both economically and ecologically. Artifishal explores the process, and what’s at stake if this culture continues its destructive path.
Britain’s National Health Service, the NHS, was the world’s first universal public health service, created out of the ideal that healthcare should be available to everyone, regardless of wealth. Designed to give millions of people “freedom from fear” following the Second World War, the NHS today is under threat of being sold-off and converted to a free-market model, inspired by the private health insurance system in the United States, which results in the deaths of an estimated 45,000 people every year. President Trump says the NHS is “on the table” in any future trade deal with America. Filmed in Britain and the United States, this timely documentary reveals what may be the last battle to preserve the most fundamental human right: health. Veteran filmmaker John Pilger takes us through a history of threats to Britain’s National Health Service, from its founding in 1948, through a push for privatisation during the 1980s, to challenges by the new politics of today and the drive for corporate take-over.
At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal reveals a dangerous athletic culture that prioritised winning over everything else, including protecting young female athletes. For more than 30 years, Larry Nassar worked with gymnasts, as a respected trainer and doctor. He was charming, taught at church, volunteered in the community, and was seemingly well-liked throughout. He treated girls’ aches and pains, becoming a friend and confidant to many along the way, while also sexually abusing them during sessions for many years. When some girls began to speak up about their experiences, they were silenced, gaslighted or denied, all the way up to the highest levels of management, across multiple sporting institutions. After many complaints and eventually a cumulative legal investigation, Nassar ends up exposed as a serial sex offender. This film unpacks the scandal, its cover-up, and aftermath, through interviews with dozens of survivors, as well as coaches, lawyers and journalists, as one of the most high-profile paedophile trials in recent years. It documents the grooming, methods, and psychology of a charismatic sexual abuser, as well as the culture that enables and perpetuates it.
Public Figure is a measured exploration of this culture’s obsession with social media, exemplified through the lives of several Instagram “influencers.” The film invites the viewer to question how much of what we see online is real or delusion, while slowly, the “influencers” themselves reveal the extent to which they’ve completely commodified their lives into enterprises, as giant advertising engines, while also touching on the personal impacts of screen culture addiction. These commentaries are contrasted by views from clinical psychologists and counsellors, whom also question the long term effects of social media culture. While some figures use their commodified lives to inspire, promote a cause, or market their business, all in all, each and every “influencer” is wittingly or unwittingly part of a multi-billion dollar advertising engine that spends more money on marketing than education in the United States. Instagram advertisers will spend $2.38 billion on “influencers” in 2019. Public Figure asks us to reflect on our personal social media use, while questioning how society perceives reality.
The central thesis of Planet of the Humans is that various people and organisations in the United States claiming to promote ‘green energy’ are actually promoting biomass energy—largely a euphemism for cutting down and burning forests—a practice which is not carbon neutral nor renewable nor sustainable. The film reveals the destruction of environments first-hand, and also explores how wind power and solar power don’t fare much better than fossil fuels in terms of impacts once all the inputs for construction and maintenance are considered and compared. In most cases, the additional demands for resources and construction simply invoke more environmental degradation and pollution. The film examines this push for more industry through key figures in the modern environmental movement that are funded by entities connected to fossil fuels, or have established profit motives, revealing how the environmental movement has been essentially co-opted into a de-facto lobbying arm of ‘green’ industries. The film also posits that regardless of energy systems, overpopulation is a central problem of industrial civilisation, and that this current way of life is unsustainable no matter how it is powered or ‘re-imagined’ by technology.
The Great Hack is an inside account of the company Cambridge Analytica, which used vast amounts of personal data scraped from portals such as Facebook to manipulate elections throughout India, Kenya, Malta, Mexico, the United Kingdom and United States over the past decade. The company, owned by SCL Group—a British firm that has a background in military disinformation campaigns and psychological warfare—came to public attention after the Brexit campaign in the UK, and soon after, the election of Donald Trump in the United States, both closely worked on by Cambridge Analytica and its billionaire backer, Robert Mercer. This resulted in inquires and investigations into both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, but the company liquidated, along with its internal documents. Two former employees instead step forward to offer an inside account into the dark world of data mining and personalised propagandising, having some regret for what they have done. The film tracks these characters, as Cambridge Analytica lives on as Emerdata Limited, in the same London office. The Great Hack exemplifies big questions about democracy in the age of targeted information manipulation via the screen, and just how much power over our awareness has been ceded to giant corporations.
This biography documents the life of Rachel Louise Carson who was an American marine biologist, author, and conservationist. Her book Silent Spring, and other writings, are widely recognised to be responsible for advancing the global environmental movement. Carson began her career as an aquatic biologist in the United States Bureau of Fisheries, and became a full-time nature writer in the 1950s, turning her attention to conservation, especially some problems that she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. The result was Silent Spring, published in 1962, which brought environmental concerns to the public at large. Although the book was met with vicious attacks from chemical companies, Carson spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides, and also inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. This film is an intimate portrait of the woman whose groundbreaking work revolutionised our relationship with the natural world.
In post-industrial United States, the Chinese company Fuyao opens a car-glass factory in an abandoned General Motors plant, hiring thousands of blue-collar American and Chinese workers. Through an an observational format, American Factory presents the two distinct cultures, comparing and contrasting each other, as well as weaving subtle commentary revealed from the workers’ themselves about the nature of manufacturing work; their differing cultural and generational attitudes on labour rights and unionising; as well as observing upper management methods and corporate politics. The film is a collage of self-revealing messages about the cultures of high-tech China and post-industrial United States, shown through the lens of capitalism and the changing status of each country in the global economy.
As one half of the satirical duo, The Rubber Bandits, Blindboy is renown for wearing a plastic bag on his head while dishing out sharp social commentary. In this series, using his unique mix of irreverent commentary, a band of undercover reporters, and playful humour, Blindboy sets out to investigate some of the most important issues of our time.
The Truth About Killer Robots considers several cases where humans have been killed from interactions with automatic machines. From the Volkswagen factory in Germany, to workers in Chinese sweatshops assembling smartphones, to a bomb-carrying police droid in the United States, the film exposes this culture’s fundamental fascination with machines, while illustrating the insatiable expansion of capitalism via automation and machine redundancy. Also explored are ‘self-driving’ cars; surveillance devices; humanless-stores, automated pizzas, robotic supermarkets and hotels; so-called ‘sex’ robots; and vast data gathering machines such as Facebook, which have subverted notions of real human interaction and intimacy. Told through the machine lens of engineers themselves, journalists and philosophers, the film attempts to go beyond the deaths of humans to reveal some of the ways that robots affect this culture in general. Not just by the displacement of labour, but fundamentally as humans of this culture adjust their lives to the rhythms of more and more machines, basic human faculties atrophy, and true connection to the real world and each other becomes more remote and strenuous, at precisely the same time where we need each other the most.
In 2015, Sandra Bland, a politically-active 28-year-old black woman from Chicago was stopped by police for a minor traffic offence in a small Texas town. Three days later, she was found dead in a police cell. Though the state claimed it was a suicide, her death enraged the public amid allegations of racially-motivated police murder. This film begins in the days after Sandra’s death, tracking the ensuing two-year battle between Sandra’s aggrieved family and the State of Texas. Following the details about the case, Say Her Name is punctuated by Sandra’s own passionate and moving commentary in 30-second “Sandy Speaks” video blogs. We see an empowered, enlightened woman, whose sharp, humorous, charismatic remarks address subjects from educating kids about black history to police brutality to the importance of natural hair. Say Her Name takes viewers inside this story that galvanised activists across the United States and the world.
How do online giants such as Facebook and Google deal with problematic content posted to their platforms every minute? They outsource the act of “digital cleaning” to teams of people paid a pittance in countries such as the Philippines, to act as content moderators. It’s these hidden low-paid workers, in giant click farms, that spend long shifts removing posts and deleting accounts. So how do their decisions influence what the billions of people using social media all around the world see and think? What are the policies they are told to enforce? Are the cleaners part of the online world of clever hoaxes and fake news, or are they on the frontline of social media spectacle and furor?
The Facebook Dilemma aims to open an in-depth investigation into the impact Facebook has had on privacy and democracy in the United States and throughout the world, by revealing how the decisions made by the company as it sought increased wealth and new users, transformed it into a vast surveillance machine, a media company, and a ‘hidden hand’ in elections and political discourse. Drawing on original interviews from those inside the company, this two part series catalogues some of the ignored warning signs, both inside and outside the company, of Facebook’s negative impact, growing from Zuckerberg’s dorm-room project and into a powerful global empire.
Tracing the Internet’s history as a publicly-funded government project in the 1960s, to its full-scale commercialisation today, Digital Disconnect shows how the Internet’s so-called “democratising potential” has been radically compromised by the logic of capitalism, and the unaccountable power of a handful of telecom and tech monopolies. Based on the acclaimed book by media scholar Robert McChesney, the film examines the ongoing attack on the concept of net neutrality by telecom monopolies such as Comcast and Verizon, explores how internet giants like Facebook and Google have amassed huge profits by surreptitiously collecting our personal data and selling it to advertisers, and shows how these monopolies have routinely colluded with the national security state to advance covert mass surveillance programs. We also see how the rise of social media as a leading information source is working to isolate people into ideological information bubbles and elevate propaganda at the expense of real journalism. But while most debates about the Internet focus on issues like the personal impact of Internet-addiction or the rampant data-mining practices of companies like Facebook, Digital Disconnect digs deeper to show how capitalism itself turns the Internet against democracy. The result is an indispensable resource for helping viewers make sense of a technological revolution that has radically transformed virtually aspect of human communication.
If a crime is committed in order to prevent a greater crime, is it excusable? Is it, in fact, necessary? The Reluctant Radical follows Ken Ward as he confronts his fears and acts on these questions to stop climate change. After twenty years leading some of the most renowned mainstream environmental organisations, Ken witnesses first-hand how ineffective and unthreatening they are. As their efforts fail, and environmental collapse increases in scope and speed, Ken comes to see how direct action civil disobedience is the most effective political tool to deal with catastrophic circumstances. Ken breaks the law, to fulfil his obligation to future generations, to stop the oil economy. By following Ken for a year and a half through a series of direct actions, this film culminates with his participation in the coordinated action that shut down all the tar-sands oil pipelines in the United States on October 11, 2016. The film reveals the personal costs but also the true fulfilment that comes from following one’s moral calling, even if that means breaking the law and its consequences. Ken has no regrets.
Fuelled by popular personalities on Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat, cosmetic surgery is pushing further into the mainstream. Huge numbers of people, predominantly young women, are choosing to alter their appearance forever as though it’s as simple as buying a new set of clothes. Social-media “influencers” get free procedures in exchange for promoting certain doctors or agencies or products to their audiences. Going on the numbers alone, audiences seem to respond to this blatantly cacophonous advertising, following their social media stars closely, and taking out huge personal loans to get surgery and “keep up with the Kardashians.” Doctors offering the surgery are even becoming media stars themselves, and it’s redefining the meaning of doctor/patient relations. Underpinning this entire industry, is a business model of targeting women who can barely afford procedures by selling the dream of a “new you.” Social-media laps it up, and the cycle repeats. But as this investigation shows, when things go wrong, the physical and financial costs are devastating. Real doctors who are left to pick up the pieces, are warning that the booming industry is creating a dangerous legacy, and not just to the concept of beauty.
There are billions of people increasingly glued to ‘smartphones’ and consumed by the seemingly endless spectacle of ‘social media.’ But why? Reporter Hilary Andersson seeks to answer this question by tracking down insiders who reveal how social-media companies have deliberately developed habit-forming technology to get people addicted. Former Facebook manager, Sandy Parakilas, tells us the “goal is to addict you and then sell your time.” Likewise, Leah Pearlman, the co-creator of the renowned ‘Like’ button, warns of the dangers of social-media addiction. Through these voices, and many others, Andersson shows how behavioural science is profoundly used by tech companies to keep people endlessly checking their phones, to the end of huge profits.
Investigate journalist A.C. Thompson reports on the background of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis involved in the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, 2017. The event itself was chaotic and violent, amidst a backdrop of general passivity by the police and supine intelligence agencies, peaking on the day with a self-identified white supremacist ramming his car into a crowd of protesters, killing a young woman, Heather Heyer, and injuring 19 other people. Documenting Hate contextualises the events of that day by looking at the renewed trajectory of fascism in the United States, and the kinds of people attracted to its place in modern times, while profiling some of the characters from Charlottesville that lurked in the background. The second part of the investigation deals with the wake of the deadly anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, showing how a neo-Nazi group, Atomwaffen Division, has actively recruited inside the United States military.