AI, or Artificial Intelligence, is spouted as the ability of machines to “think” [sic] at a speed and depth far beyond the capacity of any human. Proponents of these digital technologies claim their systems are used in ways that are beneficial for society. But as we see, the current use of AI isn’t necessarily aligned with the goals of building a better society. There still remain escalating concerns about labour, the future of work, privacy, the surveillance society, and social control—all valid criticisms that go back many decades—while the rivalry for technological supremacy between the United States and China mirrors the dynamics of the cold war. In the Age of AI is an investigation that touches on these areas, providing a platform to ask fundamental questions about unrestrained technological escalation.
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.
The 1953 Iranian coup d’état was the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran in favour of strengthening the monarchical rule of the Shah for the purposes of foreign access to Iran’s oil. BP was at the heart of this story. The operation was orchestrated by the United States under the name TPAJAX Project (Operation Ajax) and the United Kingdom under the name Operation Boot. While making a documentary about this CIA/MI6 coup, Iranian director Taghi Amirani and editor Walter Murch discover never seen before archive material hidden for decades. The 16mm footage and documents not only allow the filmmakers to tell the story of the overthrow of the Iranian government in unprecedented detail, but also leads to explosive revelations about dark secrets buried for 67 years. Working with Ralph Fiennes to help bring the lost material to life, what begins as a historical documentary about four days in August 1953 turns into a live investigation, taking the film-makers into uncharted cinematic territory.
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.
Housing is fundamental human right. But in cities all around the world, housing affordability is decreasing at record pace. The local working and middle classes have become unable to afford housing in major cities: London, New York, Berlin, Hong Kong, Toronto, Tokyo, Valparaiso, Sydney, Melbourne, Caracas, Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm… the list seems endless. People are being pushed out of their very own homes—because living in them has rapidly become unaffordable. Told through the eyes of Leilani Farha, a United Nations special rapporteur on housing, Push touches on the foundations of the crisis, as we follow the rise of abstract finance and the pervasive influence of neoliberalism that conjures a perfect storm: the global financial crisis of 2008—where houses packaged as “complex financial instruments” were the core of the crisis. Then, once the financial industry was bailed out by the public to the tune of trillions of dollars, financiers bought up millions of houses around the globe for cents on the dollar, and their power and influence has only increased in the subsequent decades. Farha travels all around the world, speaking to people that now spend 90% of their income on rent, after wages have stayed stagnant since 1970s, and how large corporations swallow up entire communities, guided by the same politik. She says we still need to confront those old ideas—the financialisation of the housing ‘market.’ “There’s a huge difference between housing as a commodity and gold as a commodity.” These systems don’t consider the people they extract from.
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.
In 2018, an electrical fault ignited a fire that spread to become the worst wildfire in the history of California, United States. A year after the devastation, Fire in Paradise sets out to examine how the fire was so catastrophic due to a combination of converging factors such as dry season and high winds, as well as criminal negligence at the hands of the electrical company—Pacific Gas and Electric—that caused the ignition. With accounts from survivors, first responders, and footage taken during the disaster, the film tells the inside story of how the most destructive fire in California’s history engulfed more than an entire town.
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.
In the Arab-American neighbourhood outside of Chicago where director Assia Boundaoui grew up, most of her neighbours think they have been under surveillance for over a decade. While investigating their experiences, Assia uncovers hundreds of pages of Operation Vulgar Betrayal, FBI documents that prove her hometown was the subject of one of the largest counter-terrorism investigations ever conducted in the United States before September 2001. No arrests or links to terrorist activity were ever made from the operation. The Feeling of Being Watched follows the examination of why a community fell under blanket government surveillance, the government secrecy shrouding what happened, and why her community feels like they’re still being watched today.
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.
This culture runs on algorithms on a scale never before realised. Whether you get a job or a mortgage or insurance or healthcare, how you get from A to B, how huge fortunes are made or whom is driven into poverty, decisions on whom is sent to or released from prison, whom is voted for in manipulated elections—the reach of algorithms has captured so much of the major decisions of our lives, all in complete obscurity, inscrutable. So what are the implications of this? What sort of ‘decisions’ do machines make, to which we’ve come to regard as infallible and impartial, accurate and precise? Algorithms Rule Us All speaks to data scientists and programmers themselves to answer the question of what they think is unfolding with the so-called Big-Data society and how we’re continuing to hand over our lives and societies to the whim of machines that are driven by rapacious profit-driven companies, for the goal of commodification of everything. What are the implications for human autonomy, society, democracy?
In 1992, Bhanwari Devi, an Indian social worker hailing from the Kumhar caste in rural Rajasthan, was gang-raped by upper caste men for having the temerity to intervene and stop the child-marriage of an infant. The subsequent acquittal of the accused in connivance with the State machinery outraged India and galvanized women’s activism that led to the Vishaka Guidelines, and subsequently, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act in 2013. In this feature-length documentary shot by an all-women crew, Director Vaishnavi Sundar juxtaposes the law on paper with the ground realities, through this first-of-its-kind log of stories and experiences of over two dozen Indian women; tales of sexual violence that they face—from opulent corporate offices, to construction sites, to manual scavenging—and their fight for justice against an obstinate patriarchal State. But What Was She Wearing? attempts to portray the impotence of this law and the impossible odds Indian women are up against in pursuit of justice.
In the United States, during the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, the rise of a white supremacist movement has returned, as political energy is injected into neo-confederate, neo-fascist, neo-Nazi, Klansmen, and various right-wing militia groups. More broadly, civil rights organisations such as Antifa (Anti-Fascist) and social justice groups are fighting back. Alt-Right: Age of Rage follows the development the Alt-Right, by following social justice activist Daryle Lamont Jenkins, and renowned Alt-Right leader Richard Spencer. Each movement is juxtaposed, as tensions boil over to the horrific events in Charlottesville where a young woman is killed, and 30 others injured by a self-identified neo-Nazi. Through these narratives and events, the film surveys the workings of Free Speech, deplatforming by the Left, the role of the Internet, and the consequences of fractured politics playing out in the real physical world.
This Is Neoliberalism is a series of video essays that explore the origins and makings of neoliberalism—the dominant ideology of capitalism. The series explains what neoliberalism is and where it came from. Economic liberalisation, privatisation of the public sphere, deregulation of corporations, tax cuts for the rich, “free trade,” “austerity,” and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in society are just some of the many themes of neoliberalism, which as an ideology, fundamentally seeks to increase the power of corporations and ensure wealth remains shifted to the upper class. The series begins in 1918, and takes us up to modern politics, through globalisation, and to the modern ruling economy.
Over 18: The Question is Not Enough is a broad examination of modern pornography. For just a generation ago, porn was on the fringe in glossy magazines. Today, porn is mainstream and even celebrated. But as softcore imagery migrated into popular culture through advertising and became normalised, today’s mainstream porn is hardcore and explicit in order to distinguish itself. Now too, with the pervasiveness of the Internet, graphic video is also increasingly exposed to young people. Over 18 tells the story of Joseph, a 13-year-old boy who is recovering from a porn addiction that he fell into when he was just 9 years old—a case that is not unexceptional. By exploring what today’s mainstream porn is and how it captures people through candid interviews with porn producers and ex-porn stars themselves, Over 18 also provides research from academics, and life experience from recovering addicts, to take aim at the content of modern pornography and its existence as an industry.
The ‘MeToo’ movement has brought the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and harassment in this culture to the mainstream, creating an unprecedented demand for sexual violence prevention models that actually work. The Bystander Moment tells the story of one of the most prominent and proven of these models developed by activist and writer Jackson Katz and his colleagues. Illustrated through archival footage and clips from news, sports, and entertainment media, Katz explores the role of bystanders—especially friends, teammates, classmates, and co-workers—in perpetuating sexual harassment and sexual assault. Katz also gives attention to peer culture dynamics—in particular the male peer culture dynamics across race and ethnicity—that help normalise sexism and misogyny while silencing other men in the face of abuse. The Bystander Moment qualifies the crucial importance of appealing to people not as potential perpetrators or passive spectators, but as active bystanders and allies who have a positive role to play in challenging and changing sexist cultural norms, to stopping abuse and violence.
The Devil We Know investigates the toxicity of perfluorooctanoic acid—PFOA/PFA, also known as C8—the key ingredient found in non-stick cookware, stain resistant furniture and carpets, wrinkle free and water repellent clothing, cosmetics, lubricants, paint, pizza boxes, popcorn bags, and many other everyday products. The film centres on Parkersburg, West Virginia, in the United States, at the DuPont facility that manufactured Teflon, and dumped at least 1.7 million pounds of PFOA into rivers and streams between 1951 and 2003, knowing that it was a carcinogen. The film follows the personal stories of several people who worked at the facility that experienced cancers and birth defects, and also reveals the detection of PFOA in the blood of more than 98% of the general US population in the low and sub-parts per billion (ppb) range, with levels much higher in chemical plant employees and surrounding subpopulations.
Generation Wealth is a visual history of the materialistic, image, and celebrity-obsessed culture, explored through the work of photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield. Part historical essay, part autobiographical, Greenfield puts the pieces of her life’s work together to reveal the pathologies that have created the richest and most unequal society the world has ever seen. Spanning consumerism, beauty, gender, body commodification, aging, and sex, Generation Wealth unpacks the global boom-bust economy, the corrupt American Dream and the human costs of capitalism, narcissism and greed.
YouTube, owned by Google, has become one of the most powerful online media platforms in the world, fast to be replacing the viewership of television with over 30 billion hours watched per month in 2017. Young people flock to the platform in the hopes of fame and fortune, which comes for a select few, but not all, hence the allure to ‘make it.’ YouTube celebrities are now mainstream celebrities. The result is troves competing to live their lives as monetised open-wounds for the corporate platform, constantly pleading for subscribers, attention and engagement, all at the hands of Google, its secret algorithms, and the screen culture of spectacle, pornography, and targeted advertising. On both sides of the screen, the treadmill is all about keeping the ad dollars constantly rolling. YouTube, YouTubers and You offers a glimpse into this new media and advertising world, pondering how this culture may continue to undermine our future media and informational landscape. What sort of people and world is this culture creating and perpetuating?
RiverBlue shows the toxic effects of textile production and jeans manufacturing on some of the world’s largest rivers. Travelling from tanneries along rivers in India, to some of the largest jeans manufacturing factories in China, renowned river advocate Mark Angelo guides the viewer through the declining health of waterways around the world.
We live in a world of screens. The average adult spends the majority of their waking hours in front of some sort of screen or device. We’re enthralled, we’re addicted to these machines. How did we get here? Who benefits? What are the cumulative impacts on people, society and the environment? What may come next if this culture is left unchecked, to its end trajectory, and is that what we want? Stare Into The Lights My Pretties investigates these questions with an urge to return to the real physical world, to form a critical view of technological escalation driven rapacious and pervasive corporate interest. Covering themes of addiction, privacy, surveillance, information manipulation, behaviour modification and social control, the film lays the foundations as to why we may feel like we’re sleeprunning into some dystopian nightmare with the machines at the helm. Because we are, if we don’t seriously avert our eyes to stop this culture from destroying what is left of the real world.
In 2015, peaceful protests and destructive riots erupted when Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American, died in police custody in Baltimore, United States. While the city waited to see the fate of the six police officers involved in the incident, who were all ultimately not punished, Baltimore Rising shows activists, police officers, community leaders, and gang affiliates, who struggled to hold the city together, as the homicide rate hit record levels. The death of Gray by police catalysed the longstanding fault lines in a distraught community, damaged by corruption and inequality. Baltimore Rising chronicles the determined efforts of people on all sides who are working to make their community better, sometimes coming together in unexpected ways.
How can we make political change if peaceful demonstration is not effective and violence only brings more violence? War/Peace posits this question by reintroducing two surviving figures from the Weather Underground movement of the late 1960s, Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers. Coming from the hippy counterculture, the Weather Underground was a radical militant organisation, with revolutionary positions characterised by the Black Power and civil rights movements, as well as opposition to the Vietnam War. In 1970, the group issued a “Declaration of a State of War” against the United States government, with the goal to overthrow the government and end United States’ imperialism, culminating in a bombing campaign targeting government buildings along with several banks. War/Peace rewinds to the past to draw out the complexity of these political struggles, and what went wrong, while drawing parallels to the struggles of today, where a lot has changed, but a lot has also remained the same.
On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh, a former soldier deeply influenced by the literature and ideas of the radical right, parked a truck with a five-ton fertiliser bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City. Moments later, 168 people were killed and 675 were injured in the blast. Oklahoma City traces the events that led McVeigh to that day from the perspective of the survivors, first-responders, investigators, and journalists who covered the events. The film provides an exploration of the convergence of various conservative religious movements and white supremacist militias that rose to prominence in the early 1990s, and were catalysed by the actions of government during that time.
Do Not Resist documents, from the perspective of the police, their view of the social unrest following the shooting and killing of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, 2014, against a backdrop of the routine and escalating use of military tactics and high-powered weaponry by local police forces throughout the United States in the past two decades. Military equipment deployed throughout the Middle East returns home to be used against the citizenry. Local police recruitment and training is awash in military commandments backed by views of escalating ‘righteous’ violence and sadism. Meanwhile curfews are imposed, along with frivolous drug raids and incessant racial profiling. The voices of concerned citizens ignored. What is the cultural and technological trajectory here?
Governments all around the world are using high-tech mass surveillance tools to monitor their citizens. Western corporations, including Britain’s largest weapons manufacturer, BAE, are among those which are creating and selling mass surveillance infrastructures all across the globe, but especially to particularly repressive regimes. Weapons of Mass Surveillance makes example of what is happening throughout the Middle East where journalists, human rights advocates and activists are being targeted with surveillance tools developed by western corporations with extreme real-world consequences. Political opponents to tyrannical power are targeted, jailed, and in some cases, tortured or “disappeared.” This shows the power of mass surveillance tools for great harm, and how the west is culpable in perpetuating systemic repression both at home and abroad.