Every spring in China, 130 million migrant workers exit the cities and travel back to their home villages for the New Year’s holiday. This exodus is the world’s largest human migration, a spectacle that demonstrates the world of a rapacious acculturating industrialism against the life of a rural past. Last Train Home follows the lives of one family who have embarked on the journey of hard labour and home again for almost two decades. One story of many of the human cost of China’s ascendence as an economic superpower.
On 1 May 1946, under occupation and wage slavery by the white man, 800 Aboriginal workers walked off sheep stations in the north-west of Western Australia, marking the beginning of a carefully organised strike that was to last for at least three years, and never officially ended. The strike was a demand for basic freedoms and for better wages considering the imposed conditions. A fight that sadly continues to this day, speaking to the truth of a country still occupied and brutally colonised, land that was never ceded.
Growing Up Trans explores how queer theory, now in the mainstream, has come to children—some younger than six years old. For just a generation ago, it was considered only adults who wished to perform opposite gender stereotypes, physically changing their bodies or appearance with drugs, hormones and invasive surgery; but today, many young children are seeking serious and new medical or chemical interventions, at younger and younger ages, in a culture of rampant individualism and post-modernism. Told from the perspective of parents, doctors, but perhaps most revealing of all, the kids themselves, Growing Up Trans reveals a sharp narrative that speaks to the choices and struggles of a new generation of young people, while also illustrating the dynamics of the larger post-modern culture and how its profoundly influenced their lives, bodies, and indeed the existential self.
Up the Yangtze focuses on the people affected by the building of the Three Gorges Dam across the Yangtze river in Hubei, China. Countless ancient villages and historic locales will be submerged, and 2 million people will lose their homes and livelihoods. The theme of the film is the rapacious transition towards consumer capitalism from a traditional farming and peasant-based society…
American Radical is a film about the life of academic Norman Finkelstein, a son of Holocaust survivors and ardent critic of Israel. Called a lunatic and self-hating Jew by some, and an inspirational figure by others, American Radical also serves to explore the issues at the centre of Palestine and Israel as Finkelstein travels around the world negotiating a voice of realism among impassioned critics and Israeli supporters. Uncompromising, even in the face of a denial of tenure at DePaul University, Finkelstein is revealed as a rare academic figure who puts the pursuit of justice above the security of his career, to expose the brutal reality of the occupation of Palestine.
When the government of Indonesia was overthrown by the military in 1965, the gangsters Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry were promoted from selling black market movie theatre tickets to leading the most powerful death squad in North Sumatra. In The Act of Killing Anwar and his cohorts recount and gruesomely re-enact their experiences and some of their killings for the cameras, making horrific scenes depicting their memories and feelings about the killings. But as they begin to dramatise Anwar’s own nightmares, the scenes begin to take over as artforms, leading to confrontations of memories of historical reality. Can the horrific imagination succumb to moral catastrophe in this case? And if sociopaths are not reachable people anymore, the question becomes what we must do to stop them.
Bananas!* documents the legal battle of banana plantation workers in Nicaragua against the Dole Food Company over cases of sterility caused by the pesticide DBCP. The chemical, despite being banned, was knowingly sprayed on crops and workers. The result is the same old battle with corporate power as the film unpacks the issues of the case and the lives of the workers through the local lawyer Juan Dominguez. Dominguez bridges the gap between the rapacious North American company and the South American workers who were not told about or protected from the pesticide, to make a claim against one of the largest corporations in the world for justice for its workers.
The Virgin Trade investigates the growing phenomenon of Western sex tourism, with a focus on Thailand. The film travels through red light districts and the starry-eyed advertising propaganda that targets Western men to reveal the mechanics of the sex industry as it operates throughout Asia. What is revealed is a world entangled by money which leads to abuse, demand which perpetuates the culture, consumerism which drives demand, and poverty which drives the need. What happens when countries and cultures are ravished like this with Western sex tourism? Are parents selling their children into brothels to finance lavish Western lifestyles? Or do orphans fill the demand—smuggled into sex-work after disasters like the tsunami of 2004? The Virgin Trade dangles the questions of numbers while still affirming widespread exploitation and deceit. The interconnectedness, scale and depth of the problem, as well as what is still hidden or left unsaid, is left up to the viewer…
In 1966, Australia made an agreement with the United States that allowed the establishment of a secret military base satellite tracking station, just south of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. The facility is called Pine Gap and for more than forty years it has operated in a shroud of secrecy and been the target of much controversy. Home on The Range attempts to contextualise these issues by highlighting the history of the base and its origins, as well as the stories of controversy. Some of these include the Khemlani Affair and the sacking of the Whitlam government in 1975, the Christopher Boyce spy trial, the role of the Central Intelligence Agency and its former agent Victor Marchetti, as well as documenting the post-war culture of government secrecy, sprawling intelligence agencies and foreign affairs and policy. But Home on the Range does more than gesture toward such CIA interventions. It marshals a persuasive array of evidence linking the imminent expiry of leases on United States military and intelligence bases in Australia in 1975, to the CIA and Whitlam’s sacking, posing direct questions about the nature of democracy in regions beholden to the United States.
An ex-pornstar, a 12 year old girl, and a 22 year old who yearns for the ‘normal’ genitals as seen in porn movies, are just some of whom are chronicled in Sexy Baby to draw together how the current relentless culture of pornography, social media and popular culture are deeply and profoundly affecting the lives women and girls. Based on intimate and candid conversations with kids in middle school classrooms, suburban shopping malls, nightclubs, college dorms, and high school house parties, the film chronicles trends among small town and big city kids—the pervasive culture affects everyone, everywhere. Most youngsters know someone who has emailed or texted a naked photo of themselves. Many kids have accidentally or intentionally had their first introduction to sex be via hardcore pornography online. Facebook has created an arena where kids compete to be “liked” and constantly worry about what image to portray. Much of what was once private is now made public. The list goes on. Sexy Baby is a powerful indictment of the Internet age and the hyper-sexualised culture affecting women and girls everywhere, as well as an insight into the struggle of parents navigating this new culture, wanting what is best for their kids and the generations to come.
Unprecedented looks at voting irregularities in the controversial presidential election in the United States from the year 2000. With a focus on the swing state of Florida, the recount, the ensuing supreme court decision in December, and future elections; the film also shows how fundamentally, many people—the majority being African-American—have outright been refused the ability to vote by a clever mix of legalese, electronic voting machines, political maneuvering and simple racism. A 1868 law prevented felons from voting—originally crafted to keep blacks from the polls in the wake of the Civil War—was resurrected in 2000, used to create a computerised list of people supposedly illegible to vote. The list had weird parameters and included as many as 57,000 to 91,000 non-felons; overwhelmingly targeting people of colour. On election day, these people were turned away at the polls. The role of electronic voting machines is also examined, as they are totally unaccountable and do not allow audits. The argument is made because of copyright over the software and trademarks. The machines also do not give paper receipts, so there is no physical evidence in case of the need for a recount. How does the United States—the so-called and self-proclaimed world-famous democracy—fair as one in light of this?
Rape on the Night Shift is a harrowing investigation into the rampant sexual abuse of the many thousands of unseen women who clean the shopping centres, banks and offices of some of the largest companies throughout the United States. The cleaning companies and contractors themselves are some of the largest companies throughout the country and the world. This report follows a prior investigation about systemic abuse of migrant women working in America’s fruit and vegetable fields, as well as packing plants and industry. Both set out to document the many aspects of a booming rape culture, driven in part by the synergy of a failure of criminal prosecutions, the legal system, a culture of pornography, the realities for migrant workers, and a perfect storm for human trafficking.
A few weeks after the September 11 attacks in 2001, the United States congress quickly passed the USA PATRIOT Act—a complicated and controversial law which was purportedly required to help with tracking future terrorist threats. Unconstitutional sets out to explain this law and examine its true impact. Citing a trove of examples from people whose lives have been directly effected, what we see is how law enforcement has rounded up Muslims and people with Arabic names to detain them for wild unspecified lengths of time without due process or even charges; the massive curtailment of civil liberties; erosion of enshrined privacy rights, increases in surveillance; and the abuses of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God examines the systemic abuse of children in the Catholic Church told through the story of four deaf men who set out to expose the priest who abused them during the mid-1960s. Each of the men brought forth the first known case of public protest against clerical sex abuse, which later lead to the sex scandal case known as the Lawrence Murphy case. Through their case, the film follows a cover-up that winds its way from the row houses of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, through to Ireland’s churches, and all the way to the highest office of the Vatican.
With its tropical beaches and buzzing nightlife, the island of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand attracts many hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. The island is renowned in the West for sex tourism, and every year many male tourists form relationships with women working in the bars of Koh Samui. But how does this work? And what dynamics are at play? Love Me Long Time is a film that speaks to the men that travel back and forth to Thailand for these holiday romances that are for sale in a country ravaged by the oppression of the west, human trafficking and prostitution driven by poverty. Do these men know what they’re doing?
Rape in The Fields is the first part of a year-long reporting effort into the systemic abuse of migrant women working in the fruit and vegetable fields, packing plants and industry of the United States. The film travels from the almond groves of California’s Central Valley to the packing plants of Iowa, from the apple orchards of Washington’s Yakima Valley to the tomato fields of Florida, speaking with dozens of women who have been sexually assaulted and abused on the job. What is shown is that in the vast fields and orchards of today’s vast agribusiness, it’s easy for a rapist to stalk his victims, and the systems function in such a way to protect the rapist, rather than the workers. Many workers are also immigrants who dare not even denounce their attackers for fear they’ll be deported. The situation on the whole is rife for ensuring abuses. A Human Rights Watch report published in May of 2014 found that rape and other forms of sexual abuse and harassment of female workers was a common problem. This report sets out to shed a light on that problem and expose the new-style slavery and abuse of workers that still continues to this day.
The Digital Dump — Exposing The Electronics Waste Trade travels to Lagos, Nigeria with the Executive Director of a global environmental organisation called BAN based in Seattle. The film is recorded over the course of 10 hectic days, during the week that Hurricane Katrina hit, documenting the reality of an escalating global trade in toxic, obsolete, discarded computers and other e-waste collected in North America and Europe. The waste is sent to countries like Nigeria by waste brokers and so-called recyclers. In Lagos, while there is some ability to repair and refurbish old electronic equipment, local experts explain that of the estimated 500 40-foot containers shipped to Lagos each month, as much as 75% of the imports are simply junk and are not economically repairable or marketable. Consequently, this e-waste is being discarded and routinely burned, despite the legal status of it as being hazardous materials.
The Wall Street Code explores the once-secret lucrative world of prolific algorithmic trading by profiling an inside programmer who, in 2012, dared to stand up against Wall Street and its extreme culture of secrecy, to blow the whistle on insights into the way the modern global money market works. His name is Haim Bodek—aka ‘The Algo Arms Dealer’—and having worked for Goldman Sachs, his revelations speak to the new kind of wealth made only possible by vast mathematical formulas, computer technologies and clever circumventions of laws and loophole exploits. Vast server farms and algorithms working beyond the timescale of human comprehension, have largely taken over human trading on the global financial markets for decades. What are the implications of that? The algorithms seem to have a life of their own. Snippets of code secretly lie waiting for the moment that your pension fund gets on the market; trades done in nanoseconds on tiny fluctuations in stock prices. And the only ones who understand this system are its architects—the algorithm developers. The Wall Street Code provides just a small insight into this new world of high-frequency trading, amongst other things…
Made over five years, with contributions from hundreds of women and over 200 Australian films, For Love or Money is a pictorial account of women’s history in Australia over the past decades. The film chronicles the cycles of women’s gains and losses as they are moved in and out of the workforce according to demands of the age, revealing how women’s unpaid and voluntary work over the years has kept and continues to keep an entire system running smoothly, both in peacetime and in war. In this culture, women do the work that is never paid or still not even recognised as real work. This film shows how this system determines the kinds of jobs women do in the paid workforce—the low-paid, low-status jobs—and how women have fought and organised for equality and wage justice for over a century. For Love or Money remains relevant today as women continue the unfinished campaigns for equal pay, maternity leave and childcare, and still carry the major responsibility for caring and nurturing in the culture of individualism.
My Country, My Country documents the United States’ invasion of Iraq from an insider’s perspective, as told by Iraqi citizens themselves, and by the efforts of a devoted father and Sunni Muslim political candidate. Filmmaker Laura Poitras also spends time on the ground following the United States military ‘Civil Affairs’ team during the 2005 elections in Iraq. As the US government attempts to “bring democracy” to the country, Baghdad native Dr. Riyadh is faced with making the difficult decision of supporting the popular boycott of the elections, or fighting for a democracy that seems ever more unlikely with each passing day. With intimate footage of Dr. Riyadh’s interactions with the public and candid interviews featuring the opinions of every-day citizens, My Country, My Country provides a rare look inside the struggle in Iraq in the context of an ongoing brutal occupation.
A new gold rush is sweeping through the Amazon rainforest where scores of people are bustling in to hunt for the last nuggets and specks of gold. This insatiable rush is perpetuating the further destruction of one of the largest remaining tropical forests in the world; bringing with it weapons, mercury, crime and alcoholism, and turning once pristine creeks and rivers into dumping grounds for mining. In the forest also lies the story of the Wayanas, a Native American tribe from Guiana, who are being poisoned by the mercury releases from the mining. Their communities are enduring one of the world’s worst globalisation disasters, fighting back against all odds.
Produced while the invasion was in full swing, Iraq for Sale investigates some the many private contractors and consultants that were brought into to Iraq as part of the United States military machine. Four major contractors are profiled: Blackwater, K.B.R.-Halliburton, CACI and Titan, along with investigations of human rights violations, systemic misconduct, corruption, and profiteering. The film posits what damage is done to the ‘average citizen’ when corporations decide to wage war. For those in opposition to war and corporate power, the connection between the invasion of Iraq and the private corporations who profit from the fighting is plain to see. For those who still may not be so easily convinced, the film not only explores the questionable motivations of the corporate decision-makers whose wartime profiteering has affected the lives of countless soldiers and their families, not mention the lives of millions of civilians, but also the increasingly negative international reputation of the United States as a result.
In July 2005, the Australian government announced its plan to open a radioactive waste-dump facility in one of three Department of Defence sites in the Northern Territory of Australia. With widespread community resistance by the indigenous people of the territory, No Where Here in the Middle documents the ongoing story of resistance to the dump and the fight to be free of toxins, poison, and a brutal occupation.
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.
Globalisation has gone to great lengths to coerce many countries around the world to open ‘free trade zones’ for Western markets, where businesses receive special tax benefits and other rewards for operating factories and exploiting cheap labour. The argument, as is always cited, is for growth of the global economy. Free Trade Slaves sets out to examine these ideas by looking at the realities of such practice. Told from the perspective of the workers in Sri Lanka, El Salvador, Mexico and Morocco; the film exposes systemic human rights abuses, harrowing environmental destruction, birth defects and other long lasting health problems and social issues. The filmmakers suggest that workers around the world need to assert the right to unionise and organise together to demand and retain decent conditions, and that consumers should do their part by boycotting companies that continue to abuse people and the environment.
For more then twenty years, many hundreds of tons of electronic waste—or e-waste—from all around the world has been transported to an infamous Chinese town called Fengjang, just south of Shanghai, for disposal and so-called ‘recycling.’ Around 50,000 migrant workers constitute part of the massive workforce necessary to dispose of e-waste, with the downcycling component of the operations involving cutting, splitting, and salvage—most-often with rudimentary equipment. The workers toil endlessly to process almost 2 million tons of garbage every year, bearing incredible precariousness, and even putting in danger their own health due to the simply unacceptable working conditions and also the toxic characteristics of the metals, chemicals and materials they’re handling. As the recognisable heaps of waste continue to pile up, Heavy Metal provides a moving image of a worldwide consumer society and the stark direct impacts of an ‘invisible’ waste.
A group of graduate journalism students from the University of British Columbia travel to the outskirts of Ghana as part of a global investigation tracking the shadowy industry of e-waste that’s causing big environmental problems around the world. Their guide is a 13-year-old boy named Alex. He shows them his home, a small room in a mass of shanty dwellings, and offers to take them across the dead river—which is literally dead—to a notorious area called Agbogbloshie which is one of the world’s unseen e-waste dumping grounds. Hundreds of millions of tons of waste are funnelled here each year, with more to come as the consumer boom of computers and gadgets increases across the globe—unless drastic action changes the flow of waste and addresses the terrible conditions many have to endure for the technocracy of the West.
A secret illegal project from the 1950s, 60s and 70s called COINTELPRO, represents the state’s strategy to prevent resistance movements and communities from achieving their ends of racial justice, social equality and human rights. The program was mandated by the United States’ FBI, formally inscribing a conspiracy to destroy social movements, as well as mount institutionalised attacks against allies of such movements and other key organisations. Some of the goals were to disrupt, divide, and destroy movements, as well as instilling paranoia, manipulation by surveillance, imprisonment, and even outright murder of key figures of movements and other people. Many of the government’s crimes are still unknown. Through interviews with activists who experienced these abuses first-hand, COINTELPRO 101 opens the door to understanding this history, with the intended audience being the generations that did not experience the social justice movements of the 60s and 70s; where illegal surveillance, disruption, and outright murder committed by the government was rampant and rapacious. This film stands to provide an educational introduction to a period of intense repression, to draw many relevant and important lessons for the present and the future of social justice.
The terms ‘liberal’ and ‘radical’ have been thrown around a lot in political discourse over the past decades, largely with lost meaning. This is a significant gap in our political understandings as the worldview of liberal activists and radical activists are conceptually different—an education that most of us never had. Writer and activist Lierre Keith regrounds these differences as part of a larger understanding of how effective resistance can be nurtured and sustained.
Sweet Crude is the story of how large oil corporations such as Shell and Chevron have absolutely decimated the Niger Delta, but the people are fighting back. The film shows the human and environmental consequences of 50 years of oil extraction against an insurgency of people who, in the three years after the filmmakers met them as college students, became the young of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). The movement is born after series of non-violent protests, and what the corporations and colonisers don’t understand is that these people will fight for their land and emancipation until the end. Sweet Crude is their story of survival and armed resistance against corrupt governments and rapacious corporate power, amongst a complicit and collusive mainstream media.
In the past 40 years, global consumption of fish has doubled. Having decimated natural fish populations globally, the industrial food system has turned to mass-scale farming practices in order to sustain the unsustainable, supplying huge supermarket chains and commercial food outlets with cheap processed fish products. What do we know about this and these processes? And what of the lives of the fish? What about their health and the health of the waters in which they’re taken? Fillet-Oh!-Fish is the result of yet another indictment of the industrial food system, agriculture and factory farming—all of which have egregious implications to the health and well-being of species, and the planet as a whole. We see myriad mixes of pesticides and other chemicals, leading to toxic rivers and streams, the pervasiveness of the industrial food system, with glimpses into working conditions and processing methods, as well as the perniciousness of globalisation, with the world-wide reach of this crazy system that has hijacked a fundamental life-giver: food.
By taking the example of documenting the conditions in zoos and circus shows, An Apology to Elephants is a film about the institutional cruelty to animals and their environments. In the circus, elephants are whipped, beaten and struck with hooks—a pain-compliance technique called bull-hooking—to perform tricks and behave according to the requirements of captivity. The film also looks at the prevalence of the ivory trade, stating that the current elephant killing rate would lead to extinction of the species in ten years. The film is a call to more than an apology, it’s a call to stop these sadistic institutions and repair the damage done to animals and the environment by this culture.
We tend to think of slavery as one of the points in Colonial History’s dark past—an offence against humanity that was abolished in the 18th century. But slavery is rampant like never before. It’s just that today the slaves are well hidden in plain sight. The global economy has enabled the immense wealth of the West, giving rise to strengthening a sinister market in slaves throughout Africa, Asia, South America, Britain and the United States. This film sets out to discover where slavery is flourishing, why it’s touching all of our lives, and how we can challenge it.