High Tech, Low Life follows the journey of two Chinese bloggers who travel their country chronicling undner-reported news and social issues stories. Using laptops, mobile phones, and digital cameras, both develop skills for reporting while learning to navigate China’s continually evolving censorship regime and the risks of political persecution. The film follows 57-year-old ‘Tiger Temple,’ who earns the title of China’s first “citizen reporter” after he impulsively documents an unfolding murder; and 27-year-old ‘Zola’ who recognises the opportunity to be famous by reporting on sensitive news throughout China. From the perspective of vastly different generations, both personalities must reconcile an evolving sense of individualism, social responsibility and personal sacrifice. The juxtaposition of Zola’s coming-of-age journey from veggie-farmer to Internet celebrity; and Tiger Temple’s commitment to understanding China’s tumultuous past, both provide a portrait of China and of the wider questions facing news-reporting in the age of the Internet.
Decades of over-fishing by the global tuna industry have now pushed the final frontiers to the waters of Papua New Guinea. In the 1950s, commercial fishing was extracting 400,000 tons of tuna from the ocean. This number is now close to 4 million tons. And it comes at a high cost: a human one, now affecting the last places on Earth to receive the full impact of globalisation. Set in “the land of the unexpected,” in the north-eastern part of Papua New Guinea, Canning Paradise follows the struggle of Indigenous tribes to protect their way of life, guarded by traditions dating back since the beginning of time. While many have lost hope, others are fighting for survival from the corrupt government and the omnicidal dominant culture.
The number of women in prison in the United States has grown by over 800% in the past three decades. Two thirds are mothers and are incarcerated for non-violent offenses. More than 80% have been victims of domestic violence or sexual assault at some point in their lives. The Grey Area is a discussion of the complex factors behind these statistics, portraying an intimate look at women’s issues from inside the criminal justice system. A small group of female inmates at a maximum women’s security prison, share their diverse experiences with motherhood, drug addiction, sexual abuse, murder, and life in prison. The women explore the “grey area” that is often invisible within the prison walls and delve into issues of race, class, sexuality and gender.
Kingdom of Plants reveals a whole new dimension in the lives of plants, from the most bizarre to the most beautiful. Using time-lapse and pioneering techniques in macro photography, naturalist David Attenborough traces plants from their beginnings on land to their vital place in nature today. We also move from our time scale to theirs, revealing the true nature of plants as creatures that are every bit as dynamic as animals. Attenborough discovers a microscopic world that’s invisible to the naked eye, where insects feed and breed, where flowers fluoresce and where plants communicate with each other and with animals using scent and sound.
Far from ending with the abolition of slavery, the trade in human beings is thriving more than ever before. Today, 27 million men, women and children are held, sold and trafficked as slaves throughout the world. From the sex slaves of Eastern Europe to China’s prison labour slaves; from Brazil’s hellish charcoal slave camps to entire families enslaved in Pakistan’s brick kilns, this series exposes the people behind modern slavery and the companies who profit from it.
Globesity exposes the explosion of global obesity by following how fast food corporations have infiltrated countries where just a few decades ago hunger was a headline health concern. The film travels to China where the consumption of sugar has skyrocketed, to Brazil where corporations such as Nestlé have fundamentally altered traditional diets, to India where it’s predicted that 100 million people will be suffering diabetes in the not-too-distant future, and on to Mexico—the biggest consumer of soft drink in the world—where diabetes is already the number one killer. The film is one illustration of many of how vast corporate operations further destroy traditional communities and usurp basic needs like food…
In January 2012, two controversial pieces of legislation were making their way through the United States Congress. SOPA, the “Stop Online Piracy Act”, and PIPA, the “Protect Intellectual Property Act”, were meant to ‘crack down’ on the illegal sharing of digital media. The laws were drafted on request of the ‘content industry’ — Hollywood studios and major record labels. But websites reacted against the government to speak out against SOPA, and the bill was effectively killed off after the largest online ‘protest’ in history. But it was only one win in a long battle between authorities and online users over Internet regulation. SOPA and PIPA were just the latest in a long line of ‘anti-piracy’ legislation that governments have been pressing since the 1990s. Can and should the internet be controlled? Who gets that power? How far will the United States government go to control the Internet?
Rich, land-hungry nations like China and Saudi Arabia are rushing to Mali, West Africa, to grab up land for large agribusiness investments. Malian peasants do not welcome these developments however, seeing this as yet another manifestation of imperialism. Indeed local farmers themselves are being forced off the land by their own governments to allow foreign interests in, promising large sums of money. Land titles are denied, lands are cleared and families moved on. Though as Mali experiences a military coup and developers are frightened off, the situation improves for local farmers…
Exploring the collusion between the richest people in the United States and the figureheads of political power in government, this film focuses on Park Avenue in New York which is currently the home to the highest concentration of billionaires in the United States. Across the river in Manhattan, less than five miles away, Park Avenue runs through the South Bronx which is home to the countries’ poorest. The disparity of wealth has never been so stark and has accelerated extraordinarily over the last 40 years. As of 2010, 400 people controlled more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the population—150 million people—as well as seizing political power. Park Avenue travels through this to illustrate why the concept of so-called “upward mobility” is a myth perpetuated by the rich, and also to unpack the workings of plutocracy and capitalism—the current-day rule by the rich, and the implications of this collusion of power and control.
Mongolia is the next target for the world’s biggest mining corporations for copper. The Oyu Tolgoi mine currently under construction in the South Gobi Desert is a combined open-pit and underground mine due to start extraction in the next few months of 2012. But the problems don’t end there. The Oyu Tolgoi deal between the Mongolian government and the massive Australian mining company Rio Tinto is truly indicative—Mongolia gets just 34 percent, while Rio Tinto is exempt from a profits tax and receives open access to scarce desert aquifers and the provisioning of water to people living close to land that the mining company now claims to own. The Big Dig documents how this avaricious mining-driven culture comes at the expense of the natural world and the way of life of local communities.
Brussels, the capital and largest city of Belgium, has a long history of hosting the institutions of the European Union within its European Quarter; while the Union itself claims it has no capital and no plans to declare one—despite the fact that Brussels hosts the official seats of the European Commission, Council of the European Union, and European Council, as well as a seat of the European Parliament. In any event, it is here—in this centre of smoke and mirrors—that exists one of the largest concentrations of lobbyist power in the world. The Brussels Business scratches the surface of this extensive world hidden-from-view by looking at the direct influence of lobbyists and the complete lack of transparency in the decision-making processes. Speaking with lobbyists and activists themselves, The Brussels Business reveals the beginnings of a vast landscape of PR conglomerates, front companies, think-tanks and their closely-interlinking networks of power and ties to political and economic elites. The questions then become: Who actually runs the European Union? How? And why?
Ninety percent of American media is controlled by five big, for-profit-conglomerates, creating a media monopoly of informational and social control never before possible. The overwhelming collective power of these firms raises troubling questions about democracy. Using a handful of in-depth cases out of a vast array of examples, speaking with renowned journalists, activists, and others, Shadows of Liberty reveals the hidden machinations of the news media, drawing into focus the vast mechanisms of censorship, cover-ups, and corporate control that have been built up over many decades. Journalists are prevented from pursuing controversial news stories, people are censored for speaking out against abuses of government power, and individual lives are shattered as the arena for public expression has been turned into a vessel for advertising, warmongering and distraction. Will the Internet remain ‘free’, or succumb to the same control by the same handful of powerful, monopolistic corporations—as we see?
For years now, the global economy has been exporting most of its wastes and dirty industries to the so-called third world. With this era of proliferation of technology and planned obsolescence, it’s no surprise that e-waste has taken over in these places too. Though while corporations claim that used TVs and computers are being safely recycled in Australia, the reality on the ground throughout Africa shows a very different story. This film travels to Ghana to see that a staggering amount of the world’s e-waste is ending up being burnt in open dumps with severe consequences. The waste creates an escalating and accumulating environmental and health nightmare. But not only this, the arrival of the waste in the first place breaks a myriad of laws and conventions that are supposed to be in place. e-Waste Hell documents this stark reality…
For years, the Earth Liberation Front—autonomous individuals operating in separate anonymous cells without any central leadership—carried out spectacular direct-actions against businesses that destroy the environment. Some of the targets were logging corporations, SUV dealerships, ranger stations, a slaughterhouse and a multi-million dollar ski-lodge at Vail, Colorado that was expanding into national forest. As authorities were not able to crack the case and disbanded many years later, the FBI got lucky when they were led to a former activist who agreed to co-operate with them and become an informant. If A Tree Falls provokes hard questions about environmentalism, activism, and the way ‘terrorism’ is defined by following the story of the activists who were turned over to the FBI, and their fate…
China’s factories provide low cost products such as computers and cars to the rest of the world, but the real cost is high with heavy air pollution, contaminated waterways, decimated land, terrible working conditions, widespread cancer and incidences of deaths. China’s Dirty Secrets travels across the country to follow workers at factories that assemble computers, then to e-waste dumps, and finally an industrial incinerator burning medical waste, all showing first-hand the extensive environmental impacts of so-called “economic growth.”
Transhumanists claim a beautiful and apparently now-not-so-distant utopian future made possible by artificial intelligence, life extension and cybernetic technologies. But upon examining the convergence of these technologies and the history behind them, Age Of Transitions details how this movement of “transcending human limits” was born out of pseudo-science eugenics, and what the implications are for a world divided by the have’s and have-not’s.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the great natural wonders of the world. But now the area faces threats not only by changes to the climate, but by direct assaults from industry going to any lengths to extract Coal Seam Gas. This report travels to Queensland to show how at least six major port developments — either being planned or currently underway — are directly putting The Great Barrier Reef in jeopardy…
American Call-Girl is an undercover investigation into the escort industry in Las Vegas, where prostitution is illegal on paper but alive and well in practice, with the industry making use of clever ways for the John to “read between the lines” while everyone else turns a blind eye. With the Internet the backbone of the 21st century sex industry, thousands of escort websites are carefully worded, but if you look closely, many appear to clearly sell sex in a fiercely competitive ‘market.’ American Call-Girl goes behind the scenes to meet escorts and see what life is really like for them. What is exposed along the way, is the rampant and abusive underworld where supposedly independent girls are actually made beholden to pimps by way of violence, extortion and trafficking. Others fight for the freedom to simply work, being on top of their own marketing and advertising. The escort industry thrives in cities throughout the United States, but Las Vegas is a ground zero, a thriving black market.
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.
The Purity Myth takes a look at the resurgence of a movement of abstinence, brought about by a powerful alliance of religious ideologues, right-wing politicians, conservative media pundits and policy intellectuals who have been exploiting irrational fears about women’s sexuality. From daddy-daughter “purity balls,” taxpayer-funded abstinence-only curricula, and political attacks on ‘Planned Parenthood,’ to recent attempts by legislators to de-fund women’s reproductive healthcare and narrow the legal definition of rape, The Purity Myth identifies the single false assumption underlying this huge push: that the worth of a woman depends on what she does—or does not do—sexually. This film also argues that the health and well-being of women is too important to be left to figureheads bent on vilifying feminism and undermining women’s autonomy.
With the Internet surpassing print as the main news source, and newspapers going bankrupt, Page One chronicles the mainstream-media industry’s transformation, while commenting on what it views as the high stakes for democracy and informedness as told from inside the newsroom at The New York Times. For a year, this film follows journalists at the paper’s Media Desk, a department created to cover the transformation of the media industry. Through this prism-within-a-prism, a complex view emerges of a media landscape fraught with both decline and opportunity, as writers like David Carr track print journalism’s metamorphosis even as their own paper struggles to stay vital and solvent, publishing material from WikiLeaks and encouraging writers to connect more directly with their audience. Meanwhile, rigorous journalism is still alive, but is facing perhaps the most tumultuous time in generations.
The Brain — A Secret History is a series about how various theories and experiments on the human mind over decades have led to profound insights into how the human brain works, but also have involved great cruelty and pose terrible ethical dilemmas. Historical experiments such as severe maternal deprivation, brainwashing and other experiments in mind control such as MKULTRA are covered, along with physical interventions such as the history of electric shock ‘treatment’, behaviour modification, experimental psychology, and the Milgram experiment.
Girl Model offers a glimpse into the hall of mirrors that is the modelling world as it interfaces with other industries and other countries. The film follows Ashley—a deeply ambivalent former-model who is now a scout and scours the Siberian countryside looking for ‘fresh faces’ to send to the Japanese market; and one of her ‘discoveries,’ Nadya, a thirteen year-old plucked from the Siberian countryside and dropped into the centre of Tokyo with promises of a profitable career. What entails is the opening of a can of worms that isn’t easily solved in one sitting—a thriving and curiously sinister modelling industry that spans the globe, luring everywhere with pretences of wonder, success and riches. But the realities are harsh. The fashion industry can look glamorous from the outside, but its insides are, at the very least, deceptive and sinister; and the myths run deeply entrenched in the culture, constantly promulgating new, young recruits. This ‘meat market,’ a prelude to sex trafficking, is creepy, ugly, and preys on the young and vulnerable. Can the spell be broken?
A group of conservation photographers travel to British Columbia, Canada, to capture the region in response to plans by several oil companies who want to build a pipeline for export from the Alberta tar sands, across British Columbia to the coast of the Great Bear Rainforest. The tar sands in northern Alberta are the largest, most destructive industrial projects in human history. The proposed pipeline not only threatens this area, but many others across Canada and indeed the world. Spoil follows several renowned photographers and videographers who show the Great Bear Rainforest’s landscapes, wildlife, and indigenous culture; calling to act before it’s too late…
How does the military train the solider of tomorrow? Video games. The most popular games are those that replicate as close as possible the war events as seen on the news. Such games now far outpace the biggest Hollywood blockbuster movies, popular music, and best-selling books, combined. What does this complete immersion in high-tech war mean for our political culture? As well as those directly affected by state violence? What does it mean when the technological sophistication of modern militarism become forms of mass entertainment? Returning Fire profiles three artists and activists that decided these questions needed to be answered. We see how Anne-Marie Schleiner, Wafaa Bilal, and Joseph Delappe moved dissent from the streets to the screens, infiltrating war games in an attempt to break their hypnotic spell. The results ask all of us—gamers and non-gamers alike—to think critically about what it means when drones and remote warfare become computer games and visa versa. Can we reflect on our capacity to empathise with people directly affected by the trauma of real war?
The Last Mountain follows the fight for the last great mountain in North America’s Appalachian heartland where mining giants that want to deforest and explode it to extract the coal inside are faced with a community fighting to preserve the mountain. The film considers the health consequences and environmental impacts of mining, burning coal for electricity, also looking at the wider context and history of environmental laws in the United States.
Perfect Storm offers an initial analysis of the underlying causes and wider context surrounding the riots throughout England in 2011. Contrary to the portrayals presented by mainstream media and trite political rhetoric around law and order, the riots were sparked by poverty, inequality and frustration over police killing a young man in Tottenham. How does the damage weigh up to the criminal conduct of banks and corporate tax avoiders when the costs of the riots are over four thousand times less than the recent financial crisis? Whose priorities are at play here?
Lifting The Veil explores the historical role of political parties in the United States as the graveyard of social movements, the massive influence of corporate financing in elections, the absurd disparities of wealth, the continuity and escalation of neoconservative policies with the Obama administration, the insufficiency of mere voting as a path to reform, and differing conceptions of democracy itself. Lifting The Veil exposes the vast hypocrisy of the United States government, with a sense of urgency to bring about real systemic social and political change…
Just Do It — A Tale of Modern-Day Outlaws follows a group of activists in the UK to document their protests and actions over one year dealing with issues around climate change. Demonstrations at Copenhagen’s 2009 G20 summit and at the Drax coal power station in North Yorkshire, England, are just some of the events documented.
9/11 — Ten Years Later takes a retrospective view of the United States to contextualise current global military and economic events. We see how the United States backed, funded and trained the Mujahideen in the 1980s at the direction of then-National-Security-Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski; and how this gives rise to Osama bin Laden and the group known as ‘al-Qaeda’ as assets of the United States military-intelligence-complex, amid the context of the Cold War. Also examined is the sprawling establishment of weapons trafficking and the “opum trade,” facilitated by the United States and Britain; along with a vast clandestine financial network funding such operations—with banks such as the BCCI at the core. We see how the events of September 11 are used as a “catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor” amongst the context of neoconservative imperialism at home and abroad, which still continues today.
From conflicts of interests in politics and collusion with corporate power, to a global mainstream media that serves the interests of a powerful few, Ethos explores aspects of the machinations of today’s global systems that work against democracy, the natural environment and lead populations into consumerism and warfare…
To this day, questions remain about what really happened in New York and Washington DC on 11th September 2001. All over the world and over a decade later, people still question the official story and the veracity of the explanations given for the events that took place that day. The Sensible Doubt meets with 6 Danes who talk about their doubt and scepticism of the official story espoused by the United States government and global mainstream media, and how they’ve come to their conclusions…
Fracking Hell — The Untold Story looks at the risks of natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale throughout the United States. From toxic chemicals in drinking water to interstate dumping of radioactive waste that cataclysmically contaminates water supplies, to fracking plans in major population centres including New York City — are the health consequences worth the supposed economic gains?
Earth at Risk documents the first conference of the same name convened in 2011 by featured thinkers and activists who are willing to ask the hardest questions about the seriousness of the situation facing life on the planet today. Each speaker presents an impassioned critique of the dominant culture, together building an unassailable case that we need to deprive the rich of their ability to steal from the poor, and the powerful of their ability to destroy the planet. Each offers their ideas on what can be done to build a real resistance movement—one that can actually match the scale of the problem. To fight back and win. Literally, the whole world is at stake.
The dominant culture measures itself by the speed of “progress.” But what if this so-called progress is actually driving the physical world towards full-force collapse? Surviving Progress shows how past civilisations were destroyed by progress traps—alluring technologies and belief systems that serve immediate needs, but ransom the future. As the total destruction of the environment accelerates and those in power cling to their power ever more tightly in denial, can this globally-entwined civilisation escape a final, catastrophic progress trap?
“Permaculture is a practical approach to the problems facing modern society, based on a philosophy of ‘think global, act local’. This video documents the transformation of a bare suburban house in Perth, showing practical examples from start to finish of how to grow organic food sustainably, how to reduce and incorporate household waste, evaluate energy consumption, and recreate habitat for other life.”
Permaculture In Practice shows how the design of ecologically sustainable ways of living can be practised in four very different settings around the UK: A Hampshire back garden including fruit trees, vegetables, bees, chickens and ducks; in the city at Bradford close to a housing estate with 10,000 residents; a community co-op in Devon, which involves a café, allotments and local composting scheme; and a small farm in the Forest of Dean where local distribution schemes ensure a close link between grower and eater, including meat production, a vegetable box scheme and locally produced charcoal.
In June 2010, leaders from the twenty largest economies met in Toronto, Canada with representatives of corporate interests to discuss the policies that shape globalisation. With exclusion zones, overlapping layers of security fencing and an estimated 25,000 police and military personnel, the city was transformed into an armed grid. Over 1.3 billion dollars were spent on security measures — more than all previous G8 or G20 meetings combined. Tales From The G20 shows some sides of the Summit, from unmarked vans with snatch squads of plainclothes police to the pre-emptive arrest of people now facing years in prison for organising demonstrations or simply being on the street…