In the United States and elsewhere, both sides of politics have revelled in spectacle and image for many decades. But when Donald Trump, the billionaire reality-television host became president, a new escalation of image and spectacle engulfed dominant culture. The Trump Show is a series that explores the beguiling spectacle of the Trump years, through interviews with former White House staffers, media managers, campaign directors, and other personalities that were close to Trump during his presidency. The series documents how image has now replaced substance in politics in a totalising way, and how false constructions seek to pave over reality through a culture that is deeply rooted in hyper-individualism, fierce and corrupt competition, ideological dogmatism, and post-modern delusions.
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.
Google or Wikipedia? Those of us who search online are getting referred more and more to Wikipedia. For the past two years, this free online “encyclopaedia of the people” has been topping the lists of the world’s most popular websites. But do we really know what we’re using? The Truth According To Wikipedia plunges into the story behind Wikipedia and explores the powerful world of ‘Web 2.0’ — Is it a revolution, or pure hype?
A behind the scenes look into what happens when you buy from the world’s biggest online retailer: Amazon. Through testimonials of ex-employees and an undercover employee with a camera, the tough conditions for workers are revealed. The film exposes the immense pressure the workers go through, such as racing a computerised clock every step of their shift, and having to walk up to 11 miles a day inside the distribution centres. As more people around the world turn to online shopping with a click of a button, staff members working at Amazon are put under mental and physical stress to deliver out of sight, out of mind.
When the United States devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear weapons in 1945, the bombs dropped were code-named ‘Fat Man’ and ‘Little Boy’ — as part of the new propaganda campaign to create acceptable images of war, propagating the illusion that the world should live securely with nuclear weapons, and that it is the only way to ‘enable peace’. By using reassuring and even soothing language, this new kind of propaganda spread all over the world…
The United States of Secrets chronologically accounts the Bush administration’s embrace of illegal and widespread dragnet surveillance and eavesdropping programmes, along with the Obama administration’s decision to not only continue them, but to dramatically expand them—despite denials and promises to the contrary. By weaving narratives by those who sought to blow the whistle on these programmes over the decades—culminating with Edward Snowden’s unprecedented dump of insider documents in 2013—we see how and why those inside the NSA and other government agencies came to act; what actions were effective, and what role the mainstream media had and continues to have in keeping such secret projects alive and untouchable in the name of ‘national security.’
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 prostitution 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…
20 years on from the invention of the World Wide Web, The Virtual Revolution explores how the Internet is reshaping almost every aspect of our lives. But what is really going on behind this reshaping? The inventor of the Web, Tim Berners-Lee, believed his invention would remain an open frontier that nobody could own, and that it would take power from the few and give it to the many. So how do these utopian claims stand up to today?
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…
The War Around Us tells the story of the only two international journalists on the ground in Gaza during Israel’s bombardment and invasion of the troubled Palestinian territory over a three-week period in 2008. With never-before-seen footage and gripping personal testimonies, the film bears witness to Israel’s ongoing siege of Gaza in the wake of its withdrawal in 2005, and pays tribute to the power of journalism and friendship under conditions of enormous conflict and stress. The result is a human glimpse into wartime reporting and life in one of the most besieged places on Earth.
The War at Home: The Untold History of Class War in the United States is a series that traverses the history of the labour movement and state repression in the United States. The series looks at history through the lens of the working class, from the Haymarket massacre in Chicago in 1886 to the Jim Crow spread in Louisiana, to the Triangle Shirtwaist tragedy of 1911, to the violent strikes and police raids of the Great Depression, and beyond. The series makes the connection between the purging of radicals from unions and the decline of union power in the 1920s, towards the 1960s and beyond.
As the U.S. stands at the brink of invasion into Iraq, many are now warning about the potential consequences: the danger of getting ‘bogged down’ in Baghdad, the prospect of long-time allies leaving America’s side, the possibility of chaos in the Middle East, the threat of ‘renewed terrorism’. The Bush administration insiders who helped define the doctrine of pre-emption and who have argued most forcefully for invasion, are determined to set a course that will “remake America’s role in the world”…
The War of Words Down Under documents an insight into the radical campaign of the 1980s to ban advertising and promotion of cigarettes in Australia. The result is a movement of culture-jamming activists called B.U.G.A. U.P. or Billboard Utilising Graffitists Against Unhealthy Promotions; who deface, disrupt, remove and challenge smoking promotions and advertising wherever it appears—in shopping centres, sports fields, billboards, etc. The movement starts in inner-city Sydney in October 1979, later spreading to Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide and Perth; with many of the members coming from professional backgrounds, including doctors and health workers. This film shows how direct-action can provoke and achieve social and political change, albeit a slow process, with success for this movement coming almost a decade later…
They brought us war in Iraq, the promotion of “American global leadership,” pre-emptive strikes; the “spreading of Democracy.” This is the Project for the New American Century. But what do the hawks in Washington have in store for the world now? The War Party investigates this group of beurocrats responsible for the Project for the New American Century, called the neo-conservatives. This interconnected, dispersed group are running the White House in concert of the Bush years and family dynasty. Is it surprising how little has changed?
The War You Don’t See traces the history of ‘embedded’ and independent reporting from the carnage of World War One to the destruction of Hiroshima, and from the invasion of Vietnam to the current war in Afghanistan and disaster in Iraq. As weapons and propaganda become even more sophisticated, the nature of war is developing into an ‘electronic battlefield’ in which journalists play a key role, and civilians are the victims. But who is the real enemy?
The Way of All Flesh traces the story of Henriettta Lacks as she dies of cancer in 1951. Before she died cells were removed from her body and cultivated in a laboratory by scientists in the hope that they could find a cure for cancer. The cells known as the HeLa line have been growing ever since, and the scientists found that they were growing in ways they could not control. The cells transformed modern medicine, the Polio vaccine, but they also became caught up in the politics of our age, shaping the policies of countries and of presidents, and even becoming involved in the cold war, as scientists were convinced that in her cells lay the secret in how to conquer death.
In the 1960s and 70s, the polarisation of the political situation in the United States was becoming acute with the Vietnam War abroad and civil rights at home being but the most obvious issues. For the youth political movement, the futile methods of peaceful protest led to the rise of an idealistic faction that undertook a more extreme approach to resistance. This faction, called the Weather Underground, attempted to team up with the Black Panthers to overthrow the US government—starting with street riots, escalating to bombing government targets. Thorough archival footage and interviews of the veterans of both sides, this film covers the movement, until changing times and disillusionment brought it to an end, alongside the FBI employing an illegal series of projects called COINTELPRO to hasten it…
Along the way to winning an eight-hour workday and fair wages in the early 20th century, the Wobblies were one of the few unions to be racially and sexually integrated and often met with imprisonment, violence, and the privations of prolonged strikes. The Wobblies airs a provocative look at the forgotten American history of this most radical of unions, screening the unforgettable and still-fiery voices of Wobbly members — lumberjacks, migratory workers, and silk weavers — in their 70s, 80s, and 90s.
With its motto “Don’t be evil,” Google claims it has the best intentions. But there are also claims that Google is slowly turning into Big Brother, keeping track of users and continuously making decisions about the information it provides. Will Google turn out to be the new Library of Alexandria, serving as the great collector that brings the world’s information to supposedly everyone, as it claims? Or is it more like a monopolistic, Ministry-Of-Truth-type corporation that challenges the very freedom of information by its stronghold over internet data?
Monsanto corporation seems to be stopping at nothing: Controlling corn, wheat, soy beans, canola, mustard, okra, bringe oil, rice, cauliflower… Once they have established the norm, they aim to claim all these seeds as their intellectual property, royalties will be collected and enforced by patent law. If Monsanto controls seed, they control food and they know it. It’s strategic. It can be more devastating than bombs, it can be more powerful than guns. This is their way to control the populations of the world, and as The World According to Monsanto reveals, it’s governments in the cross-hairs also.
The Yes Men are a culture-jamming activist-duo from the United States that are known for their impersonations of entities that they dislike as a form of protest. Using spoofed personas, they spread awareness of problematic social issues through the mainstream media. The two have also created and maintained fake websites, which have even led to numerous interviews, conferences, and TV invitations for their spoofed personas to espouse the truth about just how corporations and governmental organisations often act in dehumanising ways toward the unwitting public. In this film, we see how the two Yes Men take on the World Trade Organisation and confront the brutal realities of globalisation using satire and tactical media to get their message across, culture-jamming the corporate interest.
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.
For more than three decades, transnational corporations have been busy buying up what used to be thought of and known as unbuyable—forests, oceans, public broadcast airwaves, important intellectual and cultural works. Before their commodification, these commons were recognised as things in common to all people, for the benefit of all people. In This Land is Our Land, author David Bollier confronts the free-market extremism of our age to show how commercial interests have been undermining the public interest for years, and how it’s become so normalised that we don’t even notice it anymore. By revealing the commons within the tradition of community engagement and the free exchange of ideas and information, This Land is Our Land shows how a bold new international movement is trying to reclaim the commons for the public good by modelling practical alternatives to the restrictive monopoly powers of corporate elites.
Recorded by over 100 media activists, this film tells the story of the enormous street protests in Seattle, Washington in November 1999, against the World Trade Organisation summit. Vowing to oppose—among other faults—the WTO’s power to arbitrarily overrule nations’ environmental, social and labour policies in favour of unbridled corporate greed, thousands of people from all around the United States came out in force to stop the summit. Against them was a brutal police force and a hostile media. This Is What Democracy Looks Like documents the struggle, as well as providing a narrative to the history of success and failure of modern political resistance movements.
To Know Us Is To Love Us covers the public reaction to a Vietnamese refugee camp constructed outside Fort Smith in Arkansas, 1975—not long after the end of the Vietnam war. The film documents the stories of the refugees coming to the United States, along with the reactions of American troops, the public and citizens who take in Vietnamese refugees to assimilate them into American life.
The small town of Fort Chipewyan in northern Alberta, Canada, is facing up for the fight against The Alberta oil sands, which is arguably now the world’s largest construction project. Its expansion will have an estimated $1.7 trillion impact on the Canadian economy over the coming decades. An area of boreal forest the size of Greece will be affected by industrial activity. Once again the issue is water, but this time it is not just the flow of the river, but the chemicals the current may be carrying downstream from the strip mines and bitumen upgraders. In recent years, Fort Chipewyan has experienced an unusually high rate of cancer. Local fishermen are finding growing numbers of deformed fish in their nets. Residents and the community doctor, worry there could be a connection to the oil sands…
Chemical flame retardants are everywhere—in our furniture, our homes, our bodies. But do they work as promised? And are they making us sick? The three chemical companies producing flame retardants would prefer that we not ask these questions, and they’ve spent millions of dollars on lobbyists, publicists and influencers to ensure that we don’t. Toxic Hot Seat wades through the mess to piece together an intricate story of manipulation that details how Big Tobacco skillfully convinced fire safety officials to back a standard that, in effect, requires all furniture to be filled with toxic chemicals…
Once advertised as the birthplace of a bright new future for the American Dream, Salton City, California is now crumbling into an apocalyptic landscape of pollution and desolate land. As farmers burn their fields, and the honey bee population dwindles, scum floats down the most polluted river in North America, which carries raw sewage, pesticides and factory waste from Mexico into the once-beautiful Salton Sea. Toxic Imperial Valley travels through these landscapes, meeting the squatters and other occupiers left, in what looks like the end of the world…
While advertising is clearly a visible component of the corporate system, perhaps even more important and pervasive is the often-invisible partner—the public relations industry. Toxic Sludge Is Good For You illuminates this hidden sphere of the corporatocracy, examining the way in which the management of public discourse has become central to how society has been usurped and is controlled by political and economic elites. The film tracks the development of the PR industry from its early efforts to win popular support for World War I, to the role of crisis management in controlling damage to the corporate image, while analysing the tools PR people use to manipulate public perceptions.
Trafficked is a set of two films that follow a former-police officer’s quest to find the man who enslaved a young Thai girl in a Sydney brothel. The series explores the trafficking of women and children for prostitution as a global problem. The United Nations estimates that more than one million children are forced into sexual slavery each year. Some of them are trafficked into Australia.
Ray Kurzweil, noted inventor and futurist, is a man who refuses to accept physical reality and the inevitability of death. Instead, he claims that the trending exponential increase in the growth of information technology can continue indefinitely, and that a so-called “singularity” will emerage—a point where humans and machines will converge, allowing one to “transcend” biological “limitations.” But there are many who share deep concerns about the consequences of working towards Kurzweil’s world…
Trashed sets out to discover the extent and effects of garbage on the natural world. The film travels to beautiful destinations now tainted by pollution, through conversations with scientists, politicians, and people whose health and livelihoods have been fundamentally effected by waste. We see unfettered garbage dumping in Lebanon effecting its own coastline, but also the entire Mediterranean sea; toxic waste mounds set near a school and a future hospital in England; garbage incinerators in Iceland and Japan; the effects of plastic, microplastics, chemical sludge, flame retardants, pesticides, herbicides, dioxins, and other chemicals from waste and their synergistic impacts the world over. Trashed is a call for urgent action to resolve the issue of existing waste, to drastically reduce consumption and output to significantly less harmful levels, while demonstrating how this is already being reached for in many communities around the world.
The insane and horrific history of the development of nuclear weapons is examined first-hand in Trinity and Beyond. The film makes use of extensive archive footage from declassified military sources, where the sources themselves speak about the development of nuclear weapons, revealing the calamitous results of use. From the United States’s Trinity test of 1945, to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; to the rapid increase in testing and proliferation by states across the globe, culminating to the first Chinese atomic bomb test in 1964, Trinity and Beyond is a stark reminder of this culture’s insanity and death urge, and how—unless it is stopped—the expanding threat it continues to pose draws in, literally, the prospect of life on this planet for generations to come.
Truth in Numbers? Everything, According to Wikipedia explores the cultural implications and background of one of the most visited and referenced sites on the Internet. What is the role and impact of Wikipedia in the archiving of information and the preservation of culture? What will it leave behind? This film examines the unfolding legacy by weaving multiple perspectives about the impact of Wikipedia and provoking a deeper conversation on how knowledge is formed and what future generations will learn about history and the world…
In March 2003 thousands of Australian troops and others were sent to fight a ‘war’ as part of a pre-emptive strike on the sovereign nation of Iraq, a country from whom there was no threat. Two years on, in the wake of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi casualties, the Australian military reports its first casualty in the conflict while the American death toll stands at nearly two thousand. This being the a result of an invasion which has all but destroyed a foreign nation and seen millions made homeless, families destroyed, hundreds of thousands of deaths, leaving a legacy of destruction and religious division instilled in its wake. How did the Australian government come to play a part in this terror?
Tūhoe — History Of Resistance documents the fight for justice of the Tūhoe people of Te Urewera, Aotearoa (New Zealand). Set on contested land in the Urewera ranges of the middle North Island, the film presents the ways of Māori—the indigenous peoples of the land.
In 1960, NBC aired what is widely considered to be the first reality television show in American broadcast history. Billing itself as a new kind of visual reporting, the show was called Story of a Family, and it purported to document the day-to-day lives of the 10-member Robertson family of Amarillo, Texas. While the show has long since faded from public memory, media scholars and television historians have long recognised its significance as a precursor to the “unscripted programming” that dominates television today. TV Family draws on this history by interviewing several of the children featured in Story of a Family, to offer a fascinating behind-the-scenes account of how the show was made, and what it means to shape culture. Weaving personal anecdotes with commentary from historians and scholars, TV Family reveals the story of how the show’s producers carefully choreographed the way they wanted the family to appear to the American public—all in the name of “authenticity.” The result is an eye-opening look at one of television’s earliest successes in shaping the reality of family life in commercially viable ways.
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.
Unconstitutional investigates the ways in which the civil liberties of citizens and immigrants have been rolled back in the United States since September 11, 2001; and the PATRIOT Act. The film details some stories behind those affected—from law-abiding store clerks to United States Olympians unable to travel.