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.
The Great White Hoax contextualises the current day politicking in the United States, with a primary focus on Donald Trump’s race-baiting 2016 campaign for president. The film also widens scope however to show how Trump’s charged rhetoric fits into a long-standing historical pattern in politics in the United States, offering a stunning survey of how racism and racial scapegoating have shaped American politics for centuries. The film becomes a solid resource for a basis on race relations, white privilege, the intersectionality of race, class, and gender identities, presidential politics, and political propaganda in the age of “social media.”
The Spider’s Web: Britain’s Second Empire shows how Britain transformed from a colonial power into a global financial power. At the demise of empire, the City of London’s financial interests created a web of offshore secrecy jurisdictions that captured wealth from across the globe and hid it behind obscure financial structures, and webs of offshore islands. Today, up to half of global offshore wealth may be hidden in British offshore jurisdictions, and these are now the largest players in the world of international finance. Based in part on the book Treasure Islands by expert Nicholas Shaxson, and through contributions from former-insiders, academics, and campaigners for justice, The Spider’s Web reveals how, in the world of international finance, corruption and secrecy have prevailed over regulation and transparency, and how the United Kingdom is a pioneer of the modern corrupt global economy.
Filmed over 3 years, Complicit is an undercover investigation into the lives and conditions of workers that assemble iPhones, tablets, and other electronics in factories such as Foxconn in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, China. The film reveals the global economy’s factory floors, showing the conditions under which China’s youth have migrated by the millions in search of the espoused “better life” working for big corporations. But the reality is working long hours with toxic chemicals that cause many cumulative detrimental health conditions, including cancers. As such, a focal point of the story is Yi Yeting, who takes his fight against the global electronic industry from his hospital bed to the international stage. While battling his own work-induced leukemia, Yi Yeting teaches himself labour law in order to prepare a legal challenge against his former employers. As the struggle to defend the lives of millions of Chinese people from becoming terminally ill from work necessitates confrontation with some of the world’s largest corporations, including Apple and Samsung, Complicit turns to become a powerful portrait of courage and resistance against screens and rapacious corporate power in a toxic culture.
Spy Merchants reveals how highly-invasive spyware, which can capture the electronic communications of a town, can be purchased in a ‘grey market’ where regulations are ignored or bypassed. Mass surveillance equipment can then be sold onto authoritarian governments, criminals, and terrorists alike. During a four-month undercover operation, an industry insider working for Al Jazeera filmed the negotiation of several illegal, multi-million dollar deals that breach international sanctions. The proposed deals include the supply of highly restricted surveillance equipment. The undercover operative also secured an extraordinary agreement to purchase powerful spyware with a company who said they didn’t care who was the end-user.
Consisting entirely of archival footage, LA ’92 chronicles the 1992 Los Angeles riots, 25 years after they have passed. It includes film and video from the 1965 Watts Riots, the 1973 election of Tom Bradley, the 1978 promotion of Daryl Gates to Chief of LA Police, the shooting of Latasha Harlins, the Rodney King videotape, and the subsequent riots and violence that erupted after the acquittal of the officers involved in King’s beating.
Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982–1992 is a deep examination of a tumultuous decade in the city of Los Angeles, United States, leading up to the events of April 29, 1992, when the verdict was announced in the Rodney King case. The film traverses the conflicts between law enforcement and the black community to look at tensions across the city as a whole, and traces the roots of civil unrest to a decade before uprisings, as told through interviews with eyewitnesses and people directly involved in the events from diverse neighbourhoods across the city, including black, white, Hispanic, Korean, and Japanese Americans.
Told by the activists and leaders who live and breathe for justice, Whose Streets? is an unflinching look at the uprising in Ferguson in the United States after unarmed teenager Michael Brown is killed by police and left lying in the street. Grief, long-standing racial tensions, and renewed anger bring residents together to hold vigil, and protest the latest tragedy in a long history of police brutality. Empowered parents, artists, and teachers from around the country come together to act and support. As the national guard descends on Ferguson with military grade weaponry, young community members become the torch-bearers of a new generation of resistance. Whose Streets? is a powerful battle cry from a generation fighting, not only for their civil rights, but for the right to live.
Young filmmaker Julia Barnes embarks on a journey around the world to investigate the causes and solutions to some of the most pressing threats facing the oceans, such as the decimation of the world’s fish populations and ocean acidification. Through interviews with scientists, researchers, and activists, the film reveals the interconnections of all life on earth, positing that the current mass extinction in the oceans will have devastating impacts on terrestrial life too, including humans. Sea of Life becomes a call to action, with the view that once more people know what’s happening in the ocean, they’ll want to fight for its protection. Barnes then documents some of the largest environmental rallies, including the People’s Climate March in New York and protests at COP21 in Paris, but concludes that these actions will not be enough to save our future. Sea of Life calls for a revolution in the way we approach activism.
Shortly before dawn on August 21, 1992, United States Marshals initiated actions to apprehend and arrest Randy Weaver, a former US Army engineer, when he failed to appear in court on firearms charges after being coaxed by undercover agents to sell them sawed-off shotguns after hanging out with nazis and white supremacists. Given three conflicting dates for his court appearance, and suspecting a conspiracy against him, Weaver refused to surrender, and members of his immediate family and family friend Kevin Harris resisted as well, isolating themselves in their mountaintop home in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. When federal agents surveilling the property got close to members of the family, they also initiated a gunfight that mesmerised the nation, leaving Weaver injured, his son killed, and Striker the family dog dead. In the subsequent siege led by the FBI, Weaver’s wife Vicki was also killed, while holding her baby, by a shot in the head from a FBI sniper. Drawing upon eyewitness accounts, including interviews with Weaver’s daughter, Sara, and federal agents involved in the confrontation, Ruby Ridge is an overview of a tragic catalysing event that helped fuel conspiracy theories and give rise to the modern American militia movement.
Copwatch depicts WeCopWatch, an organisation dedicated to video recording the police in the United States. For example, Cop Watch members capture original video of the deaths of Eric Garner in Staten Island and Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Its members legally record and document police arrests as part of a movement for police accountability and transparency, but often find themselves to be the victims of chaos and police brutality as a result of the culture of extreme police misconduct and violence. The stories are told through Ramsey Orta, Kevin Moore, who filmed the police abuse of Freddie Gray, and David Whitt who lived in the apartment complex where Michael Brown was killed, as well as Jacob Crawford, who co-founded Copwatch groups inspired by the Berkeley Copwatch group. The film shows how Cop Watchers are dedicated to bringing awareness to their community, by exposing police brutality and harassment.
Stuxnet is a malicious computer virus, first identified in 2010, that targets industrial computer systems and was responsible for causing substantial damage to Iran’s nuclear program, as well as spreading across the world. The virus is believed by many experts to be a jointly built American-Israeli cyberweapon, although no organisation or state has officially admitted responsibility. Zero Days covers the phenomenon surrounding the Stuxnet computer virus and the development of the malware software known as “Olympic Games.” It also examines the follow-up cyber-plan entitled ‘Nitro Zeus,’ showing how the United States has opened the Pandora’s Box of cyberwarfare.
Facebook is an enormously powerful corporation, harnessing both the self-disclosed and gleaned personal data of over 2 billion people. Its user-base is larger than the population of any country. The company is all pervasive online, tracking and profiling users and non-users alike. Cracking the Code looks at the insides of this giant machine and how Facebook turns your thoughts and behaviours into profits—whether you like it or not. And it’s not just a one-way transaction either. Cracking the Code also explains how Facebook uses vast troves of web data to manipulate the way you think and feel, as well as act—all in the sole interests of Facebook, masquerading as “community.” What are the social implications of this—when one company basically controls the insights and experiences of the entire online world, with extremely personalised and targeted social and behavioural engineering on a scale never before seen?
Burned: Are Trees the New Coal? investigates the latest method of providing so-called “green” electricity, as espoused by the renewable energy movement. It’s called biomass, which is a euphemism for clear-cutting and burning forests. It is claimed that this is first a sustainable method of electricity creation, but secondly, and more slanderous, is claimed to be carbon-neutral and environmentally friendly. So how did this become the purported saviour for the power-generation industry, and by extension, the modern environmental movement? Burned provides a visceral account of these questions, while documenting the accelerating destruction of forests to fuel this destructive culture.
Half of all marine life has been lost in the last 40 years. By 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. The way the ocean is different to how we thought 100 years ago. We can no longer think of it as a place of resources, a dumping ground, immune to change or decline. Blue takes us on a journey into the ocean realm, witnessing the critical moment of our time when the marine world is on the precipice. Passionate advocates for ocean preservation take us into their world where the story of the changing ocean unfolds. We meet those who are defending habitats, campaigning against exploitative commercial fishing, combating marine pollution, and fighting for the protection of keystone species. Blue comes at a time where decisions made today will pave the legacy for what we leave behind for generations to come.
Ten years on from his previous film, Advertising & the End of the World, renowned media scholar Sut Jhally follows up by exploring the since-escalating devastating personal and environmental fallouts of advertising and the near-totalising commercial culture. The film tracks the emergence of the advertising industry in the early 20th century to the full-scale commercialisation of the culture today, identifying the myth running throughout all of advertising: the idea that corporate brands and consumer goods are the keys to human happiness and fulfilment. We see how this powerful narrative, backed by billions of dollars a year and propagated by clever manipulative minds, has blinded us to the catastrophic costs of ever-accelerating rates of consumption. The result is a powerful film that unpacks fundamental issues surrounding commercialism, media culture, social well-being, environmental degradation, and the dichotomy between capitalism and democracy.
Nothing to Hide questions the growing surveillance state and its acceptance by the general public through the thought-terminating cliché, “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear” argument. What is shown is that this logic is incredibly complacent and dangerous, even just from a historical perspective, considering authoritarian regimes, past and present. Nothing to Hide sets out to turn this acquiescence around, by weaving together expert commentary through real-life examples. A person agrees to be tracked as part of a small experiment, to show a small insight into the sorts of data trails that are revealed throughout our every-day lives. What is extrapolated from there is the incredible power and insight into our lives that these technologies provide. Insights which corporations and governments alike use for social control and profiling. What kind of society is being perpetuated for ourselves and future generations?
The Coming War on China is a warning that nuclear war is not only imaginable, but a ‘contingency,’ says the Pentagon. The greatest build-up of NATO military forces since the Second World War is under way on the western borders of Russia, and some 400 American military bases encircle China with missiles, bombers, warships and nuclear weapons. But these happenings are of course not reported as United States antagonism. Instead, there is a familiar drumbeat of war, the kind of the old “yellow peril,” a restoration of the psychology of fear that embedded public consciousness for most of the 20th century. The aim of this film is to break the silence, and as the centenaries of the First World War presently remind us, horrific conflict can begin all too easily. By recounting the secret and forgotten history of the rapacious actions of great power against China throughout the decades, such as the destruction of the Marshall Islands and the Opium wars, The Coming War on China is also a report of an inspiring popular resistance to nuclear weapons, military bases and warmongering of the United States, of which little is known in the West.
Physician and mother of two Dr. Delaney Ruston became interested in how much screen time is too much when her preteen started begging for a smartphone. Ruston saw other parents equally confused on how to balance technology with a young developing mind, so she decided to delve into the science behind screen time to understand how it affects young people’s minds and development. Through personal stories and input from leading researchers, the result is Screenagers, a film that sheds light on the impact screen time is having on kids; exploring how learning, playing, and socialising online effects teens’ developing attention span, fragile self-esteem, and moral instincts. Screenagers examines the real risks of failing in school, social isolation, and digital addiction. It also explores solutions to handle screen time and provides parents with tools to help young people develop self-control and find balance in their digital lives, rather than rapid-fire thumbs and a six-second attention span.
Miraculous and vital, Seed—The Untold Story follows passionate seed keepers that are tirelessly working to protect a 12,000 year-old food legacy. For only in the last century, 94% of seed varieties have disappeared, as biotech and chemical companies rapaciously took over control over the majority of the world’s food seeds. Farmers, scientists, lawyers, and indigenous seed keepers fight literally a battle for life to defend the future of food. In a harrowing and heartening story, these heroes rekindle a lost connection to a treasured source of life, and revive a culture connected to food, and the Earth.
Servant or Slave follows the lives of five Aboriginal women who were stolen from their families and forced into indentured labour to be domestic “servants” for white people during the late 1890s and into 1900s in Australia. With the government exercising complete control over their wages and livelihood, many thousands of Aboriginal children were condemned to a treadmill of abuse, battery, rape, and slavery, only to discover that even today they’ve had to fight for recognition, respect and reparation for their treatment in the past. This film recounts their experiences, as a portrait of courage, strength and the fortitude to pursue justice for the crimes committed against them.
Chasing Asylum explores the human, political, financial and moral consequences of the Australian Government’s “off-shore processing” immigration policy, which is the only country in the world to mandate indefinite detention for adults and children seeking asylum. Since this policy was restarted in 2001, it has grown into an internationally condemned, secretive regime. Inside the detention centres there have been violent deaths, suicides, horrific acts of self-harm, sexual abuse, and mass protests. Composed of footage secretly recorded inside Australia’s offshore detention camps, and explored through the eye-witness accounts of social workers and support workers, Chasing Asylum presents the hidden offshore world, where governments choose detention over compassion, a system of depriving vulnerable people of their basic human rights, and spending huge amounts of money keeping it secret and out of the public eye. The result is a sobering overall picture of a system that asks its citizens to abide by rule of law, but shows little regard to do so itself.
The setting is in the current and ongoing troubling police culture of violence, profiling and racism. Even a former NYPD officer now breaks ranks to say that the force aggressively targets poor and minority communities in order to meet secret and illegal arrest quotas. The result is a level of systemic harassment and brutality that could be hard to demonstrate, if not for growing groups of Cop Watchers—everyday citizens wielding cameras, that routinely record and publish troves of evidence documenting all kinds of patterns of police brutality and misconduct. This film follows some of the people who are doing this work, and clearly the police don’t like it. They push back hard. Cop Watchers hence face long prison sentences and trumped up charges for simply recording the police—something that is not itself a crime. In an age of intense corruption of public institutions, this film lays out abuses of power on a frightening scale, showing just how urgent serious action is required if a free society is said to continue to exist.
HyperNormalisation wades through the culmination of forces that have driven this culture into mass uncertainty, confusion, spectacle and simulation. Where events keep happening that seem crazy, inexplicable and out of control—from Donald Trump to Brexit, to the War in Syria, mass immigration, extreme disparity in wealth, and increasing bomb attacks in the West—this film shows a basis to not only why these chaotic events are happening, but also why we, as well as those in power, may not understand them. We have retreated into a simplified, and often completely fake version of the world. And because it is reflected all around us, ubiquitous, we accept it as normal. This epic narrative of how we got here spans over 40 years, with an extraordinary cast of characters—the Assad dynasty, Donald Trump, Henry Kissinger, Patti Smith, early performance artists in New York, President Putin, Japanese gangsters, suicide bombers, Colonel Gaddafi and the Internet. HyperNormalisation weaves these historical narratives back together to show how today’s fake and hollow world was created and is sustained. This shows that a new kind of resistance must be imagined and actioned, as well as an unprecedented reawakening in a time where it matters like never before.
How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change travels the globe, from New York City to the Marshall Islands and China, to meet with people who are committed to reversing the tide of global warming. The film examines the intricately woven forces that threaten the stability of the climate and the lives of the world’s inhabitants.
National Bird: Drone Wars is the story of the United States’ secret program for drone strikes, conducted all around the world, told through three military whistle-blowers plagued by guilt over participating in the killing of faceless people in foreign countries. They decide to speak out publicly, despite the possible consequences. Their stories take dramatic turns, leading one of the protagonists to Afghanistan where she learns about a horrendous incident, but her journey also provides for peace and redemption. National Bird provides an insight into the United States’ secret drone program through the eyes of participants, veterans, and survivors, connecting their stories to images.
The premise of The Age of Loneliness is of how our communities and indeed lives have been completely subsumed by capitalism, leaving us alone in tiny units, solitary. Screen culture and technology is often blamed, but this is more an extension of a larger problem. The Age of Loneliness is exacerbated by this culture making us feel like we have no purpose. How many of us know our neighbours? How many of us even know the land where we live? How has this been destroyed, usurped? What of the nuclear family? With single parents in numbers like never before and families spanning across the globe, all of this poses much larger questions about paternity and the dominant model of relationships. Consumerism and commodification also plays a central role—make note of the screens, computers, TVs and dating websites in the life of the lonely. What’s the common thread here? The Age of Loneliness is a film that spans generations, and can function as a call for all of us to reconnect with each other and the places we live for real. To turn away from the spectacle and instead build a better world, with purpose, meaning, friends and real community.
Adrift is a short film that explores the phenomenon of space junk, where human-made objects launched into space and are now defunct orbit the Earth literally as garbage. The film makes visible some of the immediate impacts and dangers of the technological escalation of this culture, where old satellites, spent rocket stages, and other items orbit the Earth, only to collide with one another at high velocities, generating smaller fragments that collide with other items, and so on. The end point is a cascading complex of junk that engulfs the entire space around the Earth. Adrift aims to make this phenomenon visible, putting a big question mark against the claims made by many futurists and technologists that future space colonisation would even be possible, if only it were a tenable or sensible idea in the first place…
The oil industry giant Chevron began operating in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest in 1964, and by the time the corporation fled the area in 1992, their toxic footprint had brought about 1,700 times more damage than the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill in the United States in 1989. Chevron vs. The Amazon visits the scene of this epic and enduring crime, to uncover the acts that have killed the riches of the world’s tropical paradise. The Amazon is home to hundreds of thousands of unique species of plants, animals, insects, landscapes, as well as an equally diverse human population—all under severe and continued stress and threat. Chevron dumped 17 billion gallons of crude oil and 19 billions gallons of contaminated waste water into the Amazon. Prior to fleeing, they attempted to hide this by covering the areas with dirt or setting the toxic dumps on fire. This film shows the totality of these crimes, and how the land and its people have suffered from devastating impacts over the ensuing decades, as the first step to holding corporate criminals to account, for justice and the survival of the Amazon and its peoples.
The Bentley Effect recounts the story of citizens throughout the Northern Rivers shire of Australia protesting against coal-seam gas extraction. When the community first learns of the news, a critical mass of people from all walks of life—farmers, landowners, mums, dads, activists, and scientists—come together to rally against the invasion. But despite enormous public opposition, the gas industry and the State Government are determined to see their plan through. So the community changes tact and resorts to differing methods of civil disobedience and non-violent protest. This culminates in a music festival of sorts in Bentley, New South Wales, which brings together the community and also spurs them on to initiating political action.
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.
Disobedience glances a new phase of civil disobedience movements to stop climate change by profiling some actions that are being taken throughout the world, led by regular people. Civil disobedience and direct action are at the centre of stopping the rich and powerful from destroying the planet—we actually have to stop them. Disobedience shows that profound shifts are required to deal with the climate crisis. The calling on how to act is up to you.
Over the past several years, a seemingly relentless string of killings by police of unarmed black men—Michael Brown in Ferguson, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Eric Garner in New York—has reignited issues around race, policing and civil rights in the United States that have been languishing unresolved for decades. Recently the issues are critical enough that the Department of Justice has stepped in to mandate reform of several police forces renowned for brutality and institutional abuses of power. In Policing the Police, journalist Jelani Cobb gets up close and personal with police departments and officers alike, to show from the inside the difficulties these institutions now face of fixing a broken relationship with the community after decades of mistrust. Is it even possible with the current police culture? Policing the Police is a powerful case study of these questions, and a light on just how much has to change.
The Killing$ of Tony Blair documents former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s well-remunerated business interests since leaving government, and his complicity in the thousands of innocent people who have died following his decision to invade Iraq.
This short video explores how the online world has overwhelmingly become the popular outlet for public rage by briefly illustrating some of the many stories of everyday people which have suddenly become public enemy number one under the most misunderstood of circumstances and trivial narratives. With the web acting like a giant echo-chamber, amplifying false stories and feeding on the pent-up aggression of the audience watching the spectacle, The Outrage Machine shows how these systems froth the mob mentality into a hideous mess, as a good example of where the spectacle goes and how its intensity has to keep ratcheting up in order maintain the audience attention, in a culture of dwindling attention spans, distraction and triviality.
The microbeads of plastic contained in cosmetics, shower gels, soaps, toothpastes, and many other products, of course directly end up in rivers and oceans, fish and birds, as well as other creatures of the sea and indeed land. But if that isn’t problematic enough, these tiny plastics are only part of the bigger problem of plastic prolifically choking the ocean to death. For all plastics, big or small, break down and fail into smaller plastic particles, having cumulative biological and toxicological effects. This short television report takes a quick look into how marine life is effected by all this, and why we should do something about it before it’s too late.
The Porn Factor takes viewers on a journey of discovery, from regional and urban Australia to the centre of the international porn industry in Los Angeles and back. Through candid interviews with young people, pornstars, and other industry professionals, The Porn Factor explores how pornography is shaping young people’s sexual expectations and experiences. Readily available and aggressively marketed online, exposure to hardcore pornography is now mainstream. The classroom or parent talk is now no match for porn—with its endless array of gyrating bodies, offering a quick, easy and anonymous sexual charge. Porn has become the default sexuality educator for young people growing up online. It brings into compelling focus the 21st century challenges faced by parents, schools and others as they seek to equip young people for a sexuality that is safe, respectful and fully consenting.
Daryl Davis is an accomplished musician, a piano player who has played all over the world with legends like Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry. He is also an activist, meeting and befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan, many of whom have never met a black person. And when some of these same people decide to leave the Klan, Daryl keeps their robes and hoods—building his collection piece by piece, story by story, person by person. In Accidental Courtesy, Daryl takes the viewer on a journey from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to Memphis, from Alabama to Ferguson, Missouri, as he recounts the entwined history of black America and popular music. Along the way, he questions several current and former Ku Klux Klan leaders as well as young Black Lives Matter activists who vehemently disagree with his tactics of tacking racism in society.
In 1979, author and activist James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, Remember This House, which was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and assassinations of three of his close friends—Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. But eight years later, Baldwin died, leaving behind 30 completed pages. I Am Not Your Negro is a film of the book that was not finished, offering an incendiary snapshot of James Baldwin’s crucial observations on race relations in the United States, with a flood of rich archival footage. The film is a journey into black history that connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present of #BlackLivesMatter, questioning black representation in the United States and beyond.
Cornered in the tiny building of the Ecuadorian embassy in the United Kingdom for half a decade, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his team are undeterred, continuing to release troves of important documents, even as the personal legal jeopardy he faces threatens to undermine the very organisation he leads and fracture the movement it inspired. Filmmaker Laura Poitras finds herself caught between the motives and contradictions of Assange and his inner circle. Filmed over six years, Risk is a complex and volatile character study of the forces that crescendo with a high-stakes election year in the United States and its controversial aftermath. In a world order where a single keystroke can alter history, Risk is a nuanced and curious portrait of power, betrayal, truth, and sacrifice. How much of your own life are you willing to risk?