Bitter Lake explores how the realpolitik of the West has converged on a mirror image of itself throughout the Middle-East over the past decades, and how the story of this has become so obfuscating and simplified that we, the public, have been left in a bewildered and confused state. The narrative traverses the United States, Britain, Russia and Saudi Arabia—but the country at the centre of reflection is Afghanistan. Because Afghanistan is the place that has confronted political figureheads across the West with the truth of their delusions—that they cannot understand what is going on any longer inside the systems they have built which do not account for the real world. Bitter Lake sets out to reveal the forces that over the past thirty years, rose up and commandeered those political systems into subservience, to which, as we see now, the highly destructive stories told by those in power, are inexorably bound to. The stories are not only half-truths, but they have monumental consequences in the real world.
What do popular television programs like What Not to Wear, The Biggest Loser, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and The Swan tell us about how to look and feel? What do they tell us about what a good life is supposed to look like? Brand New You explores these questions, and also asks what it means to be an authentic self in an extensively mediated world. It shows how the interventions featured in makeover shows—from weight loss to cosmetic surgery to rearing competitiveness—create, perpetuate and reproduce conventional norms of physical attractiveness and success. By taking a wider social and cultural view, Brand New You also shows how these programs have become tools of rampant individualism, consumerism and inner self-transformation at precisely the same time that collective awareness of social issues has dissipated.
Filmed over 18 months, Lessons in Dissent is a kaleidoscopic portrait of a new generation of Hong Kong democracy activists. 18-year-old Joshua Wong dedicates himself to stopping the introduction of National Education. His campaign begins to snowball when an interview goes viral on social media. With the new school year fast approaching, a showdown with the government seems inevitable. So with a microphone in hand, and still in his school uniform, he takes to the streets to protest, along with 120,000 people in support. Meanwhile, former classmate Ma Jai fights against political oppression on the streets and in the courts. Having dropped out of school and dedicated himself to the movement, he endures the persecution suffered by those not lucky enough to be protected by the glare of the media. Lessons in Dissent catapults the viewer on to the streets of Hong Kong, confronting the viewer with the country’s rising energy of dissent.
Pretty Slick reveals the untold story of BP’s coverup following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion is known as one of the largest environmental catastrophes in the history of the United States, but what is not well-known is that BP, along with government approval, used toxic chemicals to sink the oil in the water rather than clean it up, using a controversial chemical dispersant called Corexit. Because of this, it is estimated that approximately 75% of the oil, or over 150 million gallons, is still unaccounted for. When filmmaker James Fox learned of this, he began a three year investigation to find out about the dispersant use and its coverup. Pretty Slick reveals how public safety and environmental health took a backseat to restoring the economy, and along the way exposes the collusion between big oil and the United States government in these happenings.
Clothes to Die For documents the worst industrial disaster of the 21st century—the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, in which more than 1,100 people died and 2,400 were injured. The eight-storey building housed factories that were making clothes for many western companies—Prada, Gucci, Primark, Walmart, H&M, Gap, and others. Through a series of compelling interviews and footage from the scene, this film gives a voice to those directly affected, and highlights the greed and high-level corruption that led to the tragedy. It also provides an insight into how the incredible growth in the garment industry has transformed Bangladesh, in particular the lives of women. Clothes to Die For raises fundamental questions about the global fashion industry and the responsibilities of all those involved.
In the wake of the September 11th attacks, amongst the ravaging of war, the United States has been secretly deploying drones to carry out assassinations throughout the Middle East. The drones are increasingly piloted by the likes of young computer gamers groomed by screen culture and computer games of war, where in many cases, the Pentagon is directly involved in the creation of such games as recruitment tools, actively working to lure young people proficient with technology into the new era of the military-industrial-complex. Drone unravels this complex phenomenon while travelling to places such as Waziristan, where innocent civilians, including children and rescue workers are routinely secretly killed, where families and communities ravaged by the drone strikes search for understanding, accountability and adjustment to the daily horrors. The film also takes a look at the young people sitting behind the screens of the new war machines, half a world away, that actually pull the trigger, asking what kind of world is being built in the rise of seemingly endless and lucrative war driven by technological escalation.
Following on from previous reports about the numerous threats from industry facing the Great Barrier Reef, investigative journalist Marian Wilkinson returns to Queensland, Australia some years later to not only review the continued declining state of the reef, but to unfortunately investigate a new string of threats. This year, the government agency tasked with protecting the reef has approved a plan to expand the Abbot Point coal port which has serious cumulative effects on the already stressed reef and surrounding ecology. This in conjunction with the realities caused by anthropogenic climate change means the health of the reef has arguably past tipping point. Do we care enough to shift our perception of viewing everything through the lens of the economy? And not only that—do we care enough to act?
Instafame is an exploration of a teenager’s relationship with the concepts of success and fame through the lens of the screen, exemplified by the popular photo-sharing website ‘Instagram.’ The short film speaks volumes about this specific aspect of screen culture in that the notions of celebrity are self-reinforced in the closed-loop of the ‘social networking’ environment which is itself a purpose-built, commercially-mediated experience. So what happens to the notions of identity, friendship, personality and so on; in this space, and in the wider culture?
On April 20th 2010, a massive oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. It was called the Deepwater Horizon rig, operated by the BP corporation. The resulting fire claimed the lives of eleven workers, while the exploding oil well spewed over 4.2 million barrels of oil into the sea over 82 straight days, killing the ocean and millions of animals. The disaster is considered the worst environmental catastrophe in the history of the United States. Ecocide profiles the disaster through the residents of Grand Isle, the last inhabited barrier island off the coast of Louisiana, United States, who thought they were living in paradise until the BP oil explosion hit their shores. Through the lived experiences of this island community, we see the devastating repercussions of the explosion, several years later, that continue to this day.
The Hacker Wars explores the strange duality of the modern-day computer-hacker as a mischievous provocateur, but also in some cases, societal activists with underlying political fervour, serious or not. The film explores this by profiling some of the renowned characters that have tickled the secretive inner workings of corporations and government agencies for various reasons—ranging from the nefarious and narcissistic, to the political and scandalous. Some do it for the lulz, others do it to prove a point, and others do it to “speak truth to power.” In any event, many have faced severe punishments as a result. By following through this, The Hacker Wars touches on issues of whistleblowing, social justice, and power relations, in a time where computer technologies represent extreme power and control. But for whom? And what? This poses the question in deciphering the personalities of the hackers themselves. Are they serious activists with good intentions, or are they driven by insane ideologies?
Private Violence focuses on the issue of domestic violence, as told through two survivors: Kit Gruelle, a domestic violence victim turned advocate who seeks justice for all female violence survivors; and Deanna Walters, whose estranged husband Robbie kidnapped and beat her for four days in the cab of his truck. They were pulled over by police and she was taken to the hospital, but in spite of Deanna’s devastating injuries, Robbie was not arrested. The film follows Deanna’s journey as she rebuilds her life and fights to place Robbie behind bars. Ultimately, Private Violence centers on dispelling the logic of the commonly asked question: “Why didn’t she just leave?”
The legacy of the Bush administration and the so-called “War on Terror” includes a new logic that stretches well beyond the realm of overzealous security agencies, airport security and international relations, and into suppressing public protest; expanded surveillance aimed at entire populations, but especially activists; and mobilising fear for social control. Special police techniques have even been developed and applied in order to specifically suppress dissent and manage protests, especially in the wake of the rising anti-globalisation movements towards the turn of the millennium. Preempting Dissent provides a quick overview of how some of this logic developed, as well as a glimpse of how political protest in the West has been shaped and controlled in the “post-9/11″ years, up to and including the so-called Occupy movement. By provoking a reflection of the implications of the logic of the “War on Terror” and how its applied to stifle political protest, Preempting Dissent aims to lay some of the groundwork to develop more effective resistance tactics.
Merchants of Doubt looks at the well established Public Relations tactic of saturating the media with shills who present themselves as independent scientific authorities on issues in order to cast doubt in the public mind. The film looks at how this tactic, that was originally developed by the tobacco industry to obfuscate the health risks of smoking, has since come to cloud other issues such as the pervasiveness of toxic chemicals, flame retardants, asbestos, certain pharmaceutical drugs and now, climate change. Using the icon of a magician, Merchants of Doubt explores the analogy between these tactics and the methods used by magicians to distract their audiences from observing how illusions are performed. For example, with the tobacco industry, the shills successfully delayed government regulation until long after the health risks from smoking was unequivocally proven. Likewise with manufacturers of flame retardants, who worked to protect their sales after the toxic effects and pervasiveness of the chemicals were discovered. This is all made analogous to the ongoing use of these very same tactics to forestall governmental action in regards to global climate change today.
For the past four years Submedia has been visiting a camp of the Unist’ot’en of the Wet’suet’en Nation in so-called British Columbia in Canada. The Unist’ot’en continue to fend off intrusions to their land by rapacious oil and gas companies. The threats are large and systemic and involve the very base of life itself. This two-part series of short films document the direct actions that are effective in keeping the threats of oil and gas out. Stopping the corporations physically is paramount, as they’ll stop at nothing…
By examining the people and practices of the media and entertainment industries, The Fourth Estate illuminates not only specific incidences of corruption by press groups, but how the wider model of mainstream journalism itself as a for-profit entity has a huge amount to answer for in terms of democracy and the state of politics throughout the world. Filmed over two years throughout the UK on no budget, the filmmakers profile journalists, organisers and critics of industrial media practices, stemming from the Leveson Inquiry in 2011 which was set up to examine the culture, practices and ethics of the British press following the News International phone hacking scandals of the Murdoch media empire. While the phone hacking scandal illuminated the depth and breadth of the culture of British journalism, the media’s focus at the time quickly diverted from a brief period of self-examination, back to business as usual. This film instead continues the analysis by looking at the larger implications of a for-profit media model and its connections to ideology, entertainment, and hence the resulting political framework that’s in crisis.
Maïdan is an observational film that documents the civil uprising and revolution that toppled the government of president Victor Yanukovich of Ukraine in 2014, and has since developed into an international crisis between Russia and the West. In long unedited strides, the film portrays the protests progressing over time from peaceful rallies, half a million people strong, to bloody street battles between protesters and riot police in Kiev’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square).
Consumer capitalism dominates the economy, politics, and culture of our age, despite a growing trove of research showing that it is a failed system. In this illustrated presentation, media scholar Justin Lewis makes a compelling case that capitalism can no longer deliver on its myth of the dream and its promise to enhance the quality of life. He argues that changing direction will require changing our media system and our cultural environment, as capitalism has become economically and environmentally unsustainable. This presentation explores how the media and information industries make it difficult to envision other forms of life by limiting critical thinking and keeping us locked in a cycle of consumption, and shows us that change will only be possible if we take culture seriously and transform the very way we organise our media and communications systems.
Concerning Violence narrates the events of African nationalist and independence movements in the 1960s and 1970s which challenged colonial and white minority rule. The film is an archive-driven video essay based on author Frantz Fanon’s ‘The Wretched of the Earth,’ covering the most daring moments in the struggle for liberation in the so-called ‘Third World,’ as well as an exploration into the mechanisms of decolonisation. Fanon’s text, which was banned soon after publication more than 50 years ago, remains a major relevant tool for understanding and illuminating the neo-colonialism still happening today, as well as the reactions against it.
Lucent is a grim accounting of the realities of factory farming in Australia. Documented are some of the conditions and day-to-day operations of industrial meat production—from farrowing crates or cages, to artificial insemination, to so-called free range; and of course, to mechanistic slaughter devoid of exchange. The film focuses mainly on pigs but also briefly looks at the issues facing other animals raised and killed for food in industrial conditions.
Pornography has moved from the outskirts of society into the very mainstream of this culture in over less than a span of a generation. From MTV to Internet pornography everywhere, pop culture industries continue to bombard all of us with sexualised images of idealised women and men that jump off the screen and go straight into our lives, profoundly shaping our identity, the ideas and acceptability of body image, and our most intimate relationships. In this video essay, based on the book of the same name, leading scholar and activist Gail Dines argues that the dominant images and stories disseminated by the porn industry, produce and reproduce a system that perpetuates social inequality and encourages violence against women at its very core. In direct opposition to the claims that pornography has delivered a more liberated, equitable and edgy sexuality, Pornland reveals a mass-produced vision of sex that is profoundly sexist, destructive and pervasive in this culture—a world that severely limits and undermines our collective ability to live authentic, truly equal relationships, free of systemic violence and degradation.
In recent years, nature conservation has become a booming business where huge sums of money change hands, and endangered species become exotic financial products. Banking Nature, delves into this hidden world of so-called environmental banking, where huge corporations such as Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan Chase buy up the land and habitat of endangered species, and then sell them in the form of shares. Companies that inevitably harm the environment are then obliged to buy credits to offset the damage that they have caused. In Uganda, we meet men who measure trees to determine how much carbon they store and then a banker from the German firm that sells the resulting carbon credits. In Brazil, the steel giant Vale destroys the rainforest, replaces it with a monocrop tree plantation, and reaps the benefits of environmental credits as if the rainforest was still standing. Banking Nature posits that we disallow the same corporate criminals responsible for the global financial crisis from turning what’s left of the natural world into their final corrupt commodities market.
In 2010, the death of a three-month-old baby in South Korea named Sarang (translated as Love) became an international news story—the parents had neglected her to play an online fantasy game. She died primarily of malnutrition. But instead of merely condemning the parents, Love Child takes a different approach by looking at some issues that led to the parents addiction and how their child became oblivious to them. The film then expands to view the way South Korea’s standing as a world leader in Internet technologies has adversely affected its society, speaking also globally, where the virtual world now trumps the real world for many millions of people, with extreme consequences.
Not only with climate change and the inherent destructiveness of agriculture compounding the current ecological crisis and the need to systemically change things, Seeds of Permaculture follows a group of westerners that travel to Thailand to experience, explore, learn and teach about permaculture systems as a means to try and step out of their way of life and reconnect with cultures past-and-present about traditional knowledge pertaining to food and the land. With education and inspiration as the main thread, the film follows the westerners as they learn about composting, solar heating, food forests, composting toilets, natural building, and earthen ovens. The goal is to empower and excite you, the viewer, about the possibilities of listening and reconnecting with the land where you live.
This film makes use of court documents, diplomatic cables and testimony by business figures themselves, as one case of many, in which corporations and indeed governments side with warlords, as good for business, in the endless pursuit of profit. The story revolves around the civil war of Liberia in the 1990s, with the seeds for exploitation and destruction having been planted a century before by the United States, when formally enslaved peoples in Liberia in-turn set up a society of racism, greed and exploitation, exacerbated by western economic powers. Years later, with the presence of Firestone corporation coming to Liberia to exploit vast plantations of rubber for control over the ‘market,’ the company unfolds as a considerable catalyst for systemic terror, being the forefront for pushing for profits at all costs amongst a brutal civil war; colluding with warlords and corrupt governments in pursuit of this ruthless end. Unfurling as a case study in these methods, this film documents the case that is not so unique but a story amongst many—particularly throughout the so-called third-world—where corporate might and globalisation have extreme consequences…
For the past 15 years, the misnomer “War on Terror” has been used by the United States to justify everything from mass surveillance and spying on its own citizens, to the use of secret drone strikes to kill people without trial or sometimes even evidence. Governments have always applied surveillance to those they consider a political threat, but the scale of the clandestine PRISM programme, which collects the data of billions of innocent people all across the globe, is unprecedented. Likewise is the call for the journalists who published the documents revealing the PRISM programme to be prosecuted. In the wake of relations about sustained, systematic abuses of power, it is apparent that in many areas, the United States operates on spurious interpretations of law, often explained in confidential memos, hidden from the public. Other times, the law is disregarded entirely. So what does this mean for resistance? How can citizen rights be reconciled with a rogue state security apparatus?
The United States of Secrets chronologically accounts the Bush administration’s embrace of illegal and widespread dragnet surveillance and eavesdropping programmes, along with the Obama administration’s decision to not only continue them, but to dramatically expand them—despite denials and promises to the contrary. By weaving narratives by those who sought to blow the whistle on these programmes over the decades—culminating with Edward Snowden’s unprecedented dump of insider documents in 2013—we see how and why those inside the NSA and other government agencies came to act; what actions were effective, and what role the mainstream media had and continues to have in keeping such secret projects alive and untouchable in the name of ‘national security.’
Oil Rocks—otherwise known as Neft Daşları—is one of the first and largest offshore oil-platforms ever built. The location is a vast industrial city in the middle of the Caspian Sea, ordered by the Stalin regime in 1949. 60 years on, Oil Rocks is still operational and the first western film crew in its history receives access. The result is this film which documents 200 kilometers of bridges, thousands of oil workers, hundreds of platforms, up to nine-story buildings, a park and a sports field—nothing less then an oil-rig ‘Atlantis.’ By combining archive footage from the Soviet era and interviews with workers, this film tells the story of the oil fields and the extremely hard work by those involved to this day.
The Trials of Henry Kissinger examines the evidence of war crimes by Henry Kissinger during his time as the United States “National Security Advisor” and later Secretary of State for President Nixon and President Ford. Acting in the role of the prosecution, journalist Christopher Hitchens presents solid evidence of Kissinger’s complicity in a series of war crimes involving Indonesia, Bangladesh, Chile, Cyprus, East Timor and many other countries…
Between 1964 and 1973 the United States conducted a secret war in Laos — dropping over 2 million tons of bombs, making it the most heavily bombed country in history. Millions of ‘cluster bombs’ did not explode when dropped, leaving the country massively contaminated with “bombies” which are as dangerous now from when they fell over 30 years ago. Bombies documents unexploded cluster bombs through the personal experiences of a group of Laotians and foreigners who go about dismantling the bombs. These weapons are still a standard part of the United States military arsenal and were recently dropped in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq…
It has been 30 years since Title IX legislation granted women equal playing time, but the male-dominated world of sports journalism has yet to catch up with the law. Coverage of women’s sport lags far behind men’s, and focuses on female athletes femininity and sexuality over their achievements on the court and field. While female athleticism challenges the narrative of gender roles, women athletes continue to be depicted in traditional roles that reaffirm their femininity as wives and mothers or sex objects. By comparison, male athletes are framed according to heroic masculine ideals that honour courage, strength, and endurance. Playing Unfair is the first video to critically examine the post-Title IX media landscape in terms of the representation of female athletes, using numerous media examples to catalyse debate among women and men, athletes and non-athletes, about the meaning of images in a world transformed by the presence of women in sport.
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?
In the 1960s and 70s, the polarisation of the political situation in the United States was becoming acute with the Vietnam War abroad and civil rights at home being but the most obvious issues. For the youth political movement, the futile methods of peaceful protest led to the rise of an idealistic faction that undertook a more extreme approach to resistance. This faction, called the Weather Underground, attempted to team up with the Black Panthers to overthrow the US government—starting with street riots, escalating to bombing government targets. Thorough archival footage and interviews of the veterans of both sides, this film covers the movement, until changing times and disillusionment brought it to an end, alongside the FBI employing an illegal series of projects called COINTELPRO to hasten it…
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.
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.
They spend their days sifting through reams of market research data. They conduct endless surveys and focus groups. They comb the streets, the schools and the malls, hot on the trail of the “next big thing” that will snare the attention of their prey — a market segment worth an estimated $150 billion a year. They are the merchants of cool: creators and sellers of ‘popular culture’ who have made teenagers the hottest consumer demographic…
Ever since February 1997, when genetic scientists first unveiled ‘Dolly’ the cloned sheep, has genetic engineering pushed towards the desire to clone and genetically modify human beings. Since then, cloned cattle, pigs, goats and mice have been produced amongst other things, fuelling the belief that humans can be next. But what are the problems with this manipulation? Cloning The First Human follows the latest research, which not only shows complications from an ethical position, but much more dangerous ones too…
Coca Or Death delves into Bolivia — a country torn apart by the demands of the western world for coca. This film investigates why bloody battles have broken out between farmers and armed troops on the streets of La Paz, and what the impact of privatisation is having through the country. Coca has become a symbol of national resistance in Bolivia…
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 Coconut Revolution documents the struggle of the indigenous peoples in the Bougainville Island. The movement is described as the world’s first successful eco-revolution, in that the successful uprising of the indigenous peoples of Bougainville Island against the Papua New Guinea army stopped the mining plans of the RTZ company to exploit their land for resources…
As the biotechnology industry spends more than $50 million a year to convince us that ‘genetic technology’ is our only hope for feeding the world and saving the environment, toxic agricultural chemicals continue to poison the air, food and water and put farm workers in serious danger. So what’s the real problem? Using archive footage and interviews with farmers, scientists, government officials and activists, Fed Up With Genetic Engineering presents an overview of the current food production system, exploring the impacts of pesticides, the resistance of biotechnology companies to food labelling and the links between government officials and major biotechnology and chemical companies…