In 1970, 1,500 hippies and their spiritual guru Stephen Gaskin founded a commune in rural Tennessee, United States. Members gave over their life savings, grew their own food, delivered their babies at home and built a self-sufficient society. Raised in this alternative community by a Jewish mother from Beverly Hills and a Puerto Rican father from the Bronx, filmmakers and sisters Rena and Nadine return for the first time since leaving in 1985. As well as facing their past after years of hiding their upbringing, they chart the rise and fall of America’s largest utopian socialist experiment and their own family tree. The nascent idealism of a community destroyed, in part by its own idealism, is reflected in the personal story of a family split apart by differences. American Commune finds inspiration in failure, humour, and most surprisingly, that community values are alive and well in the next generation.
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.
American Porn is an investigation on the forces behind the explosion of pornography available throughout the United States. Through interviews with the pornographers themselves, actors, lawyers, federal and state prosecutors, activists, and a Wall Street analyst covering the industry, American Porn examines the business ties between respected corporations and porn companies, the rise of extreme hardcore porn, and a political battle of the times.
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.
Ammo for the Info Warrior is a two part series of collections of short films by the Guerrilla News Network (GNN), an independent news organisation with a mission to expose young people to important global news and information free from corporate filters. Each part consists of a selection of 5 to 10 minute videos covering a range of stories, from the violent diamond trade in Sierra Leone; to the PR industry’s manipulation of public opinion; to analysis of IBM and its role in the Holocaust; to CopWatch, a movement of people keeping police accountable; and short slam poetry clips about the business of hip-hop. Ammo for the Info Warrior experiments with format with the aim of being an innovative educational tool to tackle serious socio-political issues for a generation brought up on MTV. It can be a catalyst for discussion and debate, encouraging the viewer to develop skills in critical thinking and analysis.
An Act of Conscience documents the story of two couples Randy Kehler and Betsy Corner who refused to pay income tax throughout the 1980s in an act of defiance against military spending and war. The film captures the support community that formed in response to the seizure of their home by the IRS, and the conflict with the young couple with a newborn who bought the home at a government auction. Was this an effective protest?
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.
John Pilger travels to Bangladesh to report on the horrors of the famine in the country, its causes and tragedies, circa 1975. With people passing away on the street on a daily basis from starvation and US foreign policy continually ignored, An Unfashionable Tragedy documents the plight that continues to this day, showing that food is a powerful weapon, more powerful than oil…
An Unjustifiable Risk investigates the many risks of plutonium usage in nuclear power generation and the use of fast-breeder reactors argued for the UK in the 1970s. The film turns to Hiroshima, Japan to illustrate the powerful destructive capacities of plutonium, feeding-back the personal experiences of those effected by nuclear weapons into the debate against nuclear power and its consequences…
Apartheid based on race is ‘outlawed now’, but the system always went far deeper than that. The cruelty and injustice were underwritten by an economic apartheid, which regarded people as no more than cheap expendable labour. It was backed by great business corporations in South Africa, Britain, the rest of Europe, and the United States and it was this apartheid based on money and profit that allowed a small minority to control most of the land, most of the industrial wealth, and most of the economic power. Today, the same system is called—without a trace of irony—the free market.
David Attenborough explores just how far climate change is altering our planet—from drought-stricken rainforest to declining polar bears, from flooded homes to bleached coral. Are We Changing Planet Earth? explores the evidence that it is industrial civilisation and the activities of humans which are radically changing the climate…
The film is a video essay by Professor Albert Bartlett essentially serving as an introduction to the concept of steady growth and doubling time, by taking us through the impacts and consequences of exponential growth on a finite planet. By making good observations of this impossible growth as applied to fossil-fuel consumption, population and the endless growth of which the global economy requires, this presentation gives us the basic tools to fundamentally understand that we’ve got a real problem on our hands.
Arresting Power documents the history of conflict between the Portland police and members of the community throughout the past fifty years in the United States. The film portrays personal stories of victims of police misconduct, the families of people who were killed by police, and members of community activist groups working for reform and abolition. Using experimental filming techniques, meditative footage, and official police radio audio feeds, Arresting Power pieces together a space for understanding a lens on the impacts of police violence and community attitudes.
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.
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.
Spring of 1968 in Memphis Tennessee marked the peak of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. At the River I Stand sets out to reconstruct the eventful months leading up to this period by looking at what started as a strike by sanitation workers which quickly soared into a national conflagration. The film disentangles the complex historical forces that came together for the struggle as well the inevitability of tragedy at the death of many, including Martin Luther King. At the River I Stand brings into sharp relief issues that have only become more urgent in the intervening years: the connection between economic and civil rights; debates over strategies for change, and the questions of effectiveness of pacifist tactics for social change; the demand for full inclusion of African Americans in life; as well as the pressing fight for dignity for all working people…
Atomic Confessions investigates the devastating effects of atomic weapons testing carried out in Australia by the British military during the 1950s. Members of the Australian Army, Air Force and Navy detail former top-secret aspects of the tests, while prominent Aboriginal Elders describe the real impacts on the ground. Using archival film and photographs, as well as eye witness accounts, Atomic Confessions chronicles the consequences of nuclear testing imposed on the Australian people, and the land, showing that these tests are not just skeletons of the past…
Atomic Footprints uses archival footage and new material from the outback of Australia to examine the nuclear fuel chain, and the current push to expand uranium mines throughout Australia. This film speaks with local indigenous communities about the impact of already-existing uranium mining and refinement, and shows in clear examples some of the reasons why we should continue to oppose it around the world.
The latest in the string of controversies as part of the United States’ ongoing “war on terror”, is the military’s growing reliance on “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” otherwise known as ‘drones’, evidenced by the international reaction to recent drone missile attacks along the border in Pakistan. The military is also deploying other technological advancements alongside, such as robots in the battlefield and drones that work in swarms. Is this just a big computer game? A new tech-driven arms race? It doesn’t end there though — drones are now creeping into use by police and the intelligence services as a surveillance tool, and even into commercial and civilian use…
Audrie & Daisy is a documentary about the trend of teenage girls in the United States being sexually assaulted by their male classmates, and having the assaults recorded and shared on social media. It looks at the trend that the legal system tends to systematically minimise and dismiss cases, resulting in victimised girls not receiving justice. Girls often end up getting bullied both in school as well as online for being rape victims, and the pictures and videos are posted online—almost as trophies—by teens that have committed and witnessed these crimes. The online forum for sharing these images and comments has become the new public square of shame for adolescents. Audrie & Daisy aims to shed light on this dark corner of life facing young adults, and serves to form a powerful tool for honest conversation, analysis, and real justice.
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.
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.
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.
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?
By charting the history of the anti-war movement against the political backdrop of the atomic age, Beating The Bomb examines the current state of ‘nuclear deterrence’ brought about by the nuclear age stemming from the end of World War II, when the United States nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Specifically, the anti-nuclear movement and the founding of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in 1958 amongst others, fight for and end to the British Nuclear Weapons program, which from its inception, was closely tied to The Manhattan Project and still is to this day…
How do our families influence our relationship with our own bodies? How does popular culture’s standards of beauty get inside our hearts and heads? In what ways can sport and the drive for fitness actually make us sick rather than healthy? In Beauty Mark, former champion triathlete Diane Israel examines this culture’s unhealthy fixation on thinness, beauty, and physical perfection. She talks candidly about her own struggle with eating disorders and obsessive exercising, confronting her own past to come to terms with this culture’s unhealthy fixation on self-destructive ideals of beauty and competitiveness.
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.
Most people who know that the mainstream media manipulates stories, manufactures illusions, and exploits fears can realise that the reason is more than just bias or sloppy reporting. Behind The Big News shows the ideological agenda that originates outside the media that defines today’s headlines, using examines of some of the biggest news stories in recent decades to illustrate how this agenda is rigorously promoted and protected.
Behind the Curve documents the resurgence of believers of a flat Earth, as made popular through YouTube videos. The film is a personal exploration of how people became exposed to flat Earth theories (the YouTube algorithm), and how those ideas were reinforced in an echo chamber of social media, rejecting empirical evidence, at a time of increasing countercultural distrust in authority figures and the epistemology of science. The narrative at the core of the film reveals how the screen bubble can envelop a person’s informational exposure, and change their relationships and perceptions in the real world, where confirmation bias is reinforced, making alternative views threatening, and individualism sacrosanct. Information that is contrary to a deeply held belief then becomes increasingly impossible to accept, especially if it has changed your life and circle of friends. So with empathy and a playful warmth, Behind the Curve becomes a warning light to the importance of honest discourse and critical analysis, falsifiability and dogma, but above all, to empathy and understanding of a person’s desire to create meaning and acceptance in a lonely, fragmented culture.
Behind the Screens explores how Hollywood movies have largely become vehicles for the ulterior motives of advertising and marketing by the studios and media owners, rather than genuine storytelling or simple entertainment in their own right. By showing examples from popular movies such as Wayne’s World, Forrest Gump, The Lion King, Summer of Sam, and Toy Story, this documentary demonstrates how this trend toward hypercommercialism—through product placement, tie-ins, merchandising and cross-promotions—comes to define the modern movie. What are the problems with this, as well as the cultural and social impacts? Combined with analysis from film scholars, critics, political economists, and an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, Behind the Screens presents accessible arguments to these questions.
Benny Hinn may be the most popular personality in the Christian world today. Thousands pack arenas to see him ‘heal’ the sick and the afflicted. Tens of thousands more watch his daily television program. Millions of dollars are donated every year to his ministry, none of which he says goes to him personally. But, what about those miracles? And where does all that money go?
Berkeley in the Sixties recaptures the exhilaration and turmoil of the unprecedented student protests that ended up shaping an entire generation in the United States. The Free Speech Movement caught national attention in 1964 when the University of California tried to suppress activists distributing literature and making speeches in an outdoor plaza on campus. The school governor ordered the arrest of students who had occupied the University’s Sproul Hall, leading the largest mass arrest in United States’ history. Police violence also helped politicise and escalate student uprisings, as awareness of the Vietnam War also kept the winds of dissent blowing, albeit as some movements attracted hedonistic individualism and broke away into fancifulness. On the other end was the Black Panther Party, which offered a militant alternative to the civil rights movement. This film recounts these events through 15 former student leaders, who grapple with the meaning of their actions, as their recollections weave with footage from thousands of historical clips and hundreds of interviews from the time. The film offers a reflective and insightful analysis of the successes and failures of the era—from the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings and civil rights sit-ins at the beginning of the decade, through the Free Speech Movement, anti-war protests, the growth of the counter-culture, the Black Panther Party, and the stirrings of the Women’s Movement—confronting the viewer with the questions the 1960s raised and struggled with.
How did two childhood friends from Midland, Texas end up arrested on terrorism charges at the 2008 Republican National Convention? Better This World follows the journey of David McKay and Bradley Crowder from activist beginners to accused domestic terrorists with a particular focus on the relationship they develop with an FBI informant named Brandon Darby in six months leading up to their arrests. Weaving through a story of entrapment, idealism, political struggle and ultimate betrayal, Better This World winds up at questions of the core machinery of the justice system and its impact on civil liberties and political dissent in the modern “post-9/11 world.”
The belief that good triumphs over evil resonates deeply through the religious and political discourses of dominant culture. It is also a common theme in the entertainment media where the struggle between good and evil is frequently resolved through violence. The negative impacts of media violence on children has long been a public concern, but it is even more troubling when military violence, both in the news and in entertainment, is often glorified as heroic and noble. Beyond Good & Evil: Children, Media & Violent Times is a look at how mass communication distorts and manipulates language and visual imagery. It shows viewers how the media’s overriding objective of satisfying an audience converts real issues surrounding race, war, and violence into nothing more than spectacle.
Using Oliver Stone’s epic film “JFK” as a springboard, Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy brings together extensive research around the assassination of John F Kennedy in 1963, to challenge serious flaws in the official narrative. Featuring interviews with Jim Garrison, the District Attorney who brought the conspiracy case of Clay Shaw in 1969, as well as interviews with his staff, Numa Bertel, Lou Ivon and Perry Russo; in addition to numerous reporters, eyewitnesses, archivists, and others, Beyond JFK is a cumulative look into the huge amounts of public research that went into the counter-narrative of the JFK assassination, forming the basis of the production of the JFK movie as a way of presenting the research to the public through pop-culture.
Department of Defense documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act expose horrific government funded experimentation upon citizens conducted without their knowledge or consent. Is the United States knowingly using a dangerous battlefield weapon banned by the United Nations because of its long-term effects on the local inhabitants and the environment? Beyond Treason explores the illegal worldwide sale and use of one of the deadliest weapons ever invented. Was “Gulf War Illness” actually known by the military before hand?
Every day, escalating technologies are being used to monitor all of us as populations with unprecedented scrutiny—from driving habits to workplace surveillance, as shoppers, as consumers, as citizens. We are all increasingly being observed and analysed. Internet searches are monitored and used as evidence in court, the police track our movements on the road, governments collect our DNA, fingerprints and iris scans, corporations assemble huge databases for profiling and selling data, while governments collude with such lucrative businesses—for example, Acxiom, Lexis Nexis and ChoicePoint—to gain access to vast volumes of information about people and the machinations of modern society. What will it take for us to stop this system before it boils over into a full-blown technocratic authoritarian regime?
Big Bucks, Big Pharma looks at the varied insidious methods of the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry to manipulate—and in some instances create—psychological conditions for profit. Focusing on the advertising for psychotropic drugs, the film demonstrates the ways in which pharmaceutical marketing glamorises and normalises the use of prescription medication, and how this works in tandem with promotion and delivery by doctors. These practices combine to shape how both patients and doctors understand and relate to mental and physical health, as well as treatment. Ultimately, Big Bucks, Big Pharma challenges the viewer to ask important questions about the consequences of a society relying on a for-profit industry for collective health and well-being.
Bikpela Bagarap (Big Damage) is the story of logging in Papua New Guinea, following the reality of systemic exploitation by logging companies of indigenous communities, where locals are not even citizens in their own country. Customary landowners are coerced into signing release documents, or sign with the understanding that promises for clean water, health and education will be delivered. On the contrary, traditional hunting grounds are destroyed, waterways polluted, and livelihoods threatened.