Social media networks purport the ability to interact with culture—talking directly to artists, celebrities, movies, brands, and even one another—in ways never before possible. But is this real empowerment? Or do marketing companies still hold the upper hand, as before? Generation Like explores how the perennial quest for identity and connection is usurped in the pervasive game of cat-and-mouse by vast corporate power in the extensive machine for consumerism that is now the online environment. The audience becomes the marketer; buzz is subtly controlled and manipulated by and from real-time behavioural insights; and the content generated is sold back to the audience in the name of participation. But does the audience even think they’re being used? Do they care? Or does the perceived chance to be the ‘next big star’ make it all worth it?
A look back on the news events from 2014 reveals a confusing, muddled mess. Things are increasingly chaotic, along with the reporting of the events in the culture of 24-7 rolling news, sound-byte feeds and the Internet. The result, as we see, is not a coherent public understanding of these complex events, but more a profound mass-confusion, with discourse destroyed, which in-turn broods disengagement from the world and further atomises an already divided-and-conquered public. It is this response that is a powerful form of social control, and is by design…
Nearly 100 years after its creation, the power of the United States Federal Reserve has never been greater. Governments and financial systems around the world pay close attention to the Fed Chairman’s every word, philosophies and ideologies. Yet the average person knows very little about the most powerful and least understood financial institution. Money For Nothing takes viewers inside the Fed and reveals the impact of Fed policies past, present, and future.
Migratory Songbird populations are drastically collapsing. Many species have already been driven extinct. But yet, as an endangered species, the birds are still targeted by poachers. Millions of birds are unlawfully slaughtered each year for large sums on the black market. Emptying the Skies explores the wonder of these marvelously tiny globe-flying birds, along with the story of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter, an action group of citizens who have dedicated their lives to directly stop and confront the poachers. They disrupt and destroy trapping, freeing as many birds as possible, changing the world one bird at a time.
Web Junkie travels to China, the first country in the world where Internet addiction has been classified as a clinical disorder. The film focuses on the methods used to treat young people, which reveal a surreal mix of prison, hospital, and military operations, with a dose of group therapy thrown in for good measure. We also see the cultural and emotional effects of Internet addiction in China’s society of hyper-competitiveness, which speaks to the dominant culture worldwide. Web Junkie exposes the virtual world in a country—and indeed world—of disparity, where health officials have no idea how to cope with a younger generation that finds World of Warcraft more exciting and supposedly more “real” than their own lives.
In November 2012, yet another incident at a textiles factory in Bangladesh killed at least 112 people. Walmart’s brand shorts were among the clothing found in the charred remains. Walmart blamed its supplier, saying the order had been sub-contracted without its permission. With this example among the many, Made in Bangladesh illustrates the complex organisation of corporate obfuscation—the industries that continue to drive sweat shops, slave labour and child labour under a very clever hall of mirrors…
Dirty Wars follows investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill into the hidden world of the United States’ covert wars and assassination programmes—from Afghanistan to Yemen, Somalia, and beyond. What begins as a relatively commonplace report on the cover-up of a murderous US night raid in a remote corner of Afghanistan, quickly turns into a global investigation of the secretive and powerful Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)—a top secret arm of the Military-Industrial-Intelligence Complex. As Scahill digs deeper into the activities of JSOC, he is compelled to report on the growing chilling underworld of covert operations carried out across the globe at the behest of the United States government: Targeted killings of American citizens; secret drone strikes; outsourcing American kill lists to warlords, private corporations and paramilitaries. The list goes on. Dirty Wars is a sobering investigation and personal journey into the most important human rights story of our time.
Why did appointed officials of the Australian Reserve Bank and its employees break sanctions in Iraq and cosy up to Saddam Hussein through a frontman during the late 1990s, early 2000s and beyond? Why did a former Deputy Governor and other directors hand-picked by the Reserve Bank to safeguard its subsidiary companies from corruption, end up—over a decade—overseeing some of the most corrupt business practices possible? How did they allow millions of dollars to be wired to third parties in foreign countries—including a known arms dealer—in order to win banknote contracts knowingly using bribery and supporting corruption?
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.
For many years, there has been widespread speculation, but very little consensus, about the relationship between violent video games and violence in the real world. Joystick Warriors draws on the insights of media scholars, military analysts, combat veterans, and gamers themselves, to examine the latest research on the issue. By setting its sights on the wildly popular genre of first-person shooter games, Joystick Warriors exploring how the immersive experience these games offer link up with the larger stories this culture tells about violence, militarism, guns, and manhood. It also examines the gaming industry’s longstanding working relationship with the United States military and the arms industry, showing how the games themselves work to sanitise, glamorise, and normalise violence while cultivating regressive attitudes and ideas about masculinity and militarism.
In groups we are told what to do, but do we always do so? Do groups give us courage to obey, or do they inhibit us? How do protest and change emerge? In Random 8, a randomly selected group of eight people from all walks of life are brought together in a bare room, mobile phones are confiscated, and cameras record their reaction to a series of simple instructions that escalate in intensity and in degree of challenge. The film cites the issues raised by several famous psychological experiments, including the work of Stanley Milgram in the 1960s who studied human obedience to orders, even when the orders were immoral or caused pain to others; and the work of sociologist Bill Gamson et al, in which groups were asked to carry out unjust requests made by an authority figure. What can happen when we’re asked to do something that goes against our beliefs?
In Mediastan, an undercover team of journalists drive across central Asia interviewing editors of local media outlets to publish secret US diplomatic cables that were provided to WikiLeaks in 2010. Success is varied. And so, after regrouping with Julian Assange in England, questioning the editor of the Guardian, and obtaining candid footage of the New York Times editor and its publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Mediastan closes by leaving the viewer with an informative first-hand overview of the machinations of mainstream media. By venturing into the minds—and actions—of the people and institutions who shape the news, Mediastan shows the system for what it’s worth, and reveals its true motivations…
Utopia is both an epic portrayal of the oldest continuous human culture on the planet—indigenous Australia—and an investigation into a suppressed colonial past and rapacious present. One of the world’s best kept secrets is revealed against the great Australian ‘mining boom,’ showing how the country’s racially divided past and current-day media collusion play their parts in a system that is apartheid in all but name. The film examines the exploitation of the Aboriginal population, both as a people and of the land they have lived on for centuries, and how so many institutions have profited while people continue to suffer. The injustice stretches across countless generations and stories. Utopia reveals this universal story of power and resistance, driven by old imperatives, in a media age of saturation which is profoundly silent and complicit; a call to continue resistance.
In January 2013, film-maker Laura Poitras received an encrypted e-mail from a stranger who called himself Citizen Four. In it, he offered her inside information about illegal wiretapping practices of the NSA and other intelligence agencies. Poitras had already been working for several years on a film about mass surveillance programs in the United States, and so in June 2013, she went to Hong Kong with her camera for the first meeting with the stranger, who identified himself as Edward Snowden. She was met there by investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian intelligence reporter Ewen MacAskill. Several other meetings followed. Citizenfour is based on the recordings from these meetings. What follows is the largest confirmations of mass surveillance using official documents themselves, the world has never seen…
We live in an absolutely saturated media environment of images that span ‘real’ and fake—whether it’s newspaper and tabloid photos, journalism itself, art and culture, or the human body. Images claim to be hardly distinguishable from the originals, while the virtual world is increasingly becoming ‘seamless’ in the real world. Kids today see a Clown Fish but instead impose their imagery of Finding Nemo. People interact with machines more than they do living beings. The narratives imposed by this technological and media culture are fast seeking to entirely replace the real world with a simulation of it. So what does that mean for the truth? The Industry of Fake explores the shifting boundaries and inequality in journalism and in art, as well as providing a basis to question this culture’s fascination with simulacra—a process of mimicry mediated by images that represents the real thing, but is not the real thing. What does it mean if we value our projections or stories about the thing as opposed to the thing in-and-of itself? What does this mean in the real world if we come to value our simulations or representations as more authentic things as opposed to copies or toxic mimics?
No Measure of Health profiles Kyle Magee, an anti-advertising activist from Melbourne, Australia, who for the past 10 years has been going out into public spaces and covering over for-profit advertising in various ways. The film is a snapshot of his latest approach, which is to black-out advertising panels in protest of the way the media system, which is funded by advertising, is dominated by for-profit interests that have taken over public spaces and discourse. Kyle’s view is that real democracy requires a democratic media system, not one funded and controlled by the rich. As this film follows Kyle on a regular day of action, he reflects on fatherhood, democracy, what drives the protest, and his struggle with depression, as we learn that “it is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
Nuclear Nation II is Atsushi Funahashi’s sequel, documenting the consequences of the March 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Ōkuma, Japan. In this follow-up, we learn that the former mayor—previously a fervent advocate of nuclear energy and now a passionate fighter for the victims of the catastrophe—has now been replaced by someone younger. The single-minded cattle breeder also makes another appearance, originally having resisted the government’s orders to evacuate the disaster zone and kill his livestock. Today, a look at his animals lays bare the consequences of radioactive contamination: they all have ulcers and open wounds. It wasn’t until late 2014 that the final people left the school building, but they’re unlikely ever to be able to return to their homes. The epicentre of the catastrophe has been declared a toxic waste disposal site. The inhabitants of Futaba, to whom nuclear energy once brought affluence, are now paying the high price for it.
With the pervasive screen environment, our memory is dissipating. Hard drives only last five years; webpages are forever changing in the way of the Ministry of Truth; and there’s no machine left that reads 15-year old floppy disks. Digital data is vulnerable. Yet entire libraries of books and other physical artifacts of information and culture are being lost due to budget cuts, or even the shifting assumption that everything can be found online, and can always be in the digital realm. How is this untrue? For the first time in history, we have the technological means to save great swathes of data about our past, yet it seems to be going up in smoke already. Will we suffer from collective amnesia in the age of decline?
In March 1971, eight ordinary citizens broke into an FBI office in Pennsylvania, took hundreds of secret documents out, and mailed them to newspapers across the country to share them with the public. The group, calling themselves The Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI, undertook the actions at a time where suspicions about systemic abuse and manipulation of social and political movements by intelligence agencies were running high in the context of the Vietnam war and 1960s counter-culture. In doing so, these citizens uncovered the FBI’s vast and illegal regimes, leading to insights about mass surveillance, intimidation, entrapment, and the use of provocateurs and informers for manipulation, and sabotage. Much of this would later go on to be known as part of a covert program called COINTELPRO that was run directly by J. Edgar Hoover to destroy social change movements—a history that is imperative to understand in the context of today, where state repression of social change movements continues.
Travelling across North America, DamNation investigates the growing change in national attitude from strange pride in big dams as domineering engineering projects, to the growing truthful awareness that dams have always been the great killers of rivers, wildlife, the salmon, the forests, coastlines, watersheds. Life is bound to water and health of rivers, and now, dam removal in many forms—including Monkey Wrenching—is reclaiming that life and spreading. Where dams come down, rivers come back, allowing the salmon to return after decades of being concreted out. By making firsthand unexpected discoveries moving through rivers and the landscapes altered by dams, DamNation presents a much-needed metamorphosis in values, from conquest of the natural world to knowing ourselves as part of nature; to respect, and be humbled. With over two million dams in North America alone—75,000 of them over six feet tall—there’s much work to be done. Let’s get to it.
The Internet’s Own Boy is a biographical documentary of the programmer and activist Aaron Swartz, who died at age 26. From his help in the development of the basic Internet protocol RSS at age 14, to the co-founding of the social network website Reddit in 2006, Swartz becomes disillusioned with the grooming of academia to the corporate life presented to him, and turns instead to work on issues of sociology, civic awareness and activism. It then becomes Swartz’s work in social justice issues and political organising, combined with an open and sharing approach to information access that ensnares him in a two year legal battle, in which authorities seek to make an example of him and the work. The battle sadly ends with Swartz taking his own life. This film is a personal story about what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to the political system, civil liberties and human relationships.
Above All Else is an intimate portrait of a group of activists and landowners in East Texas, United States, who undertook a series of direct actions and put their bodies in the way to stop construction of the Keystone pipeline in 2012. The film follows David Daniel, a quiet, affable carpenter, whose backyard became the epicenter of a tree-sit that physically blocked the path of the controversial pipeline. This was the birthplace of the Tar Sands Blockade, an activist group that would go on to oppose the pipeline’s construction all along its route. David’s stance against Keystone brought together an unlikely coalition of allies, from Texan farmers to student environmentalists to fire-cracker great-grandmothers like Eleanor Fairchild. Above All Else is the story of David and his allies, their struggles, and what happened when they stood in the way of the most powerful industry in the world.
Fascism Inc. examines a series of historical events to compile a view of the past, the present and the future of fascism and its relation to the economic interests of each era—including the current era. The film travels from Mussolini’s Italy, to Greece under the Nazi occupation; the civil war and the dictatorship; and from Hitler’s Germany to the modern European and Greek fascism. Following on from the foundations of earlier films such as Debtocracy and Catastroika which described the causes of the debt crisis, the impact of the austerity measures, the erosion of democracy and the sell-out of the country’s assets; Fascism Inc. aspires to continue to motivate anti-fascist resistance movements across Europe, and the world.
War Matters chronicles a decade of anti-war protest in Britain through the story of veteran peace campaigner Brian Haw, who camped in Parliament Square for over 10 years in protest against the UK government’s policies in the Middle East. Brian began his campaign against war on 2nd June 2001, initially in protest of the sanctions against Iraq. After the September 11 attacks in the United States later on that year, Brian’s campaign took on a whole new level of importance. War Matters documents this shift by examining the larger issue of the British arms trade and the repercussions of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars around the world, as civil rights are being curtailed in so-called democracies. Where does democracy end and tyranny begin?
Who Pays the Price — The Human Cost of Electronics is a short film that seeks to humanise the largely hidden and anonymous global labour force that enables the ubiquitous technoculture, documenting the harsh conditions in which electronics are made and how this really impacts those people’s lives, and the environment. Toxic chemicals, plastics, and sweat-shop working conditions all contribute to the global machine that disseminates digital technologies, hidden in plain sight. Through direct footage of factory workers, interviews with them and analysis of the conditions, Who Pays the Price asks the question of the viewer, and as a call to action to stop the exploitation and toxification of people and the natural world.
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.
In the past 40 years, global consumption of fish has doubled. Having decimated natural fish populations globally, the industrial food system has turned to mass-scale farming practices in order to sustain the unsustainable, supplying huge supermarket chains and commercial food outlets with cheap processed fish products. What do we know about this and these processes? And what of the lives of the fish? What about their health and the health of the waters in which they’re taken? Fillet-Oh!-Fish is the result of yet another indictment of the industrial food system, agriculture and factory farming—all of which have egregious implications to the health and well-being of species, and the planet as a whole. We see myriad mixes of pesticides and other chemicals, leading to toxic rivers and streams, the pervasiveness of the industrial food system, with glimpses into working conditions and processing methods, as well as the perniciousness of globalisation, with the world-wide reach of this crazy system that has hijacked a fundamental life-giver: food.
How To Stop A Multinational follows three women in Argentina as they put themselves in harms way to stop a gold mining company from entering their town. With the activists having defeated a Canadian mining company, the campaign is now against a Chinese one that wishes to extend the operation, making use of large quantities of fresh water—up to 45,000,000 litres per day—a plan that seriously threatens the future viability of the town and the environment. This short film documents the campaign which is still in its early days, where activists carry out a series of direct-actions to stop the mining company from physically entering the town; training villagers, informing others and filming the outcomes along the way…
Let the Fire Burn documents the conflict of the City of Philadelphia and the Black Liberation organisation MOVE, that led to a disastrously violent confrontation in 1985. MOVE was originally established as a “back to nature” movement that practised green methods, and in May 1985, the Philadelphia Police Department decided to take action to evict the group from their row house at 6221 Osage Avenue. When gunfire broke out and tear gas was not enough to pull the MOVE members out of the house, the police decided to drop explosives on the house. A fire soon began to blaze, endangering the several children now trapped inside the house. In a controversial decision, the police opted to let the fire burn, resulting in the destruction of over 60 homes and the death of five children and six adults. Eleven people died in the resulting fire, and more than 250 people in the neighbourhood were left homeless. Ramona Africa, one of the two survivors, said that police fired at those trying to escape. The investigation commission that followed found that city leaders and law enforcement had acted negligently, but no criminal charges were filed.
Two years before the Occupy movement sprang forth in New York, a small group of land-rights activists occupied a piece of disused land in west London to create an “alternative model of moneyless, sustainable living” which they labelled, the Eco-Village. Echoing the dynamics of hippy communes in the United States decades earlier, Grasp the Nettle follows the often bewildering and even amusing actions of this group through many moments of idyllic beauty, as they use local trees and recycled rubbish to build small homes, go dumpster diving, build a manually operated shower and compost toilet, create a local seed bank, and help distribute dumpstered sandwiches to the city’s homeless. But the Eco-Village quickly becomes something other than just an idealistic experiment in political protest. It begins to attract vulnerable people who already live on the margins of society and need help: the homeless, the unemployed, alcoholics, the mentally ill. Some of them are invited to stay, but others cause a ruckus and harm the group. Tensions spark as the community grapples to deal with the increasing chaos while trying to stave off the fast-approaching prospect of eviction, through the ideologies of withdrawal, dropping out, freemanism and spirtuality. Grasp the Nettle is hence a valuable reflection of the efficacy of this type of Wandervogel-style activism, where lack of goals and support infrastructure, a diverse array of internal conflicts and horizontal hostility can be the ultimate undoing of idealistic and much-needed political resistance movements.
The Kill Team profiles four young American men, who referred to themselves as the “Kill Team,” that carried out a string of war crimes in 2010, during the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan, systematically murdering Afghan citizens. The film focuses on Private Adam Winfield who attempted, with the help of his father, to alert the military to the murders his platoon was committing. His pleas went unheeded. Faced with threats to his life from superior officers and other members of the military, Winfield makes a split-second decision that changes his life forever. The Kill Team follows Winfield and his family through the wartime events and legal proceedings that follow, interspersed with interviews of the other soldiers involved, and video footage from Afghanistan, revealing first-hand revelations of a war culture rooted in hatred, social pressure, and sociopathy.
Aluminium is everywhere—beer cans, tinned food, cooking pans, computers, pens, cosmetics; and many medications, including most vaccinations. Though what do we know about this material? The Age of Aluminium profiles people whose health has been seriously impacted by unwitting exposure to aluminium; along with research exploring how aluminium as a known neurotoxin relates to the growing epidemic of chronic illnesses and disabilities such as breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, allergies, and autism. Aluminium mining and manufacturing have also created cataclysmic environmental problems in several parts of the world, as we see the devastating effects of aluminium mining in South America, and environmental disasters in Hungary and the UK. What are we doing with this material? And what can we do now to avoid the continued impacts on our lives and the natural world?
The Secret of the Seven Sisters is a four-part series examining the rise of a powerful cartel of seven companies that control the world’s oil supply. The ‘seven sisters’ comprises Anglo-Persian Oil Company (now BP); Gulf Oil, Standard Oil of California (SoCal) and Texaco (now Chevron); Royal Dutch Shell; Standard Oil of New Jersey (Esso) and Standard Oil Company of New York (Socony), (now ExxonMobil). Prior to the oil crisis of 1973, the Seven Sisters controlled around 85% of the world’s petroleum reserves, but in recent decades the dominance of the companies and their successors has declined. This series is about the power of oil, the conspiracy of business, and the control that oil provides the few…
Goodbye Indonesia investigates one of the world’s most forgotten conflicts—the West Papuan struggle for independence. When the Dutch decolonised their empire after the Second World War, they handed it all to the emergent country of Indonesia—all except the territory of West Papua, which forms one half of New Guinea, the second largest island on Earth. This remarkable landmass split neatly by colonial powers into West Papua and Papua New Guinea, is like few other places in the world…
Less than three years after a popular uprising that led to President Hosni Mubarak’s ousting, and just one year after Egypt’s first elections, the elected government has been overthrown and the Egyptian military is running the state. And the Muslim Brotherhood—the secretive, long-outlawed Islamist group that came out of the shadows to win the presidency in June 2012—is once again being ‘driven underground.’ Were the Brothers ever really in charge? Or was the Egyptian deep state—the embedded remnants of Mubarak’s police force, Supreme Court and, most of all, military—in control all along? In Egypt in Crisis, we go inside the Egyptian revolution, tracing how what began as a youth movement to topple a dictator evolved into an opportunity for the Muslim Brotherhood to seemingly find the political foothold it had sought for decades—and then why it all fell apart. With Egypt’s hopes for democracy in tatters, and the military-led government violently cracking down, what will happen next?
Fashion Victims looks at the real cost of cheap clothes from the conditions of sweat shops in Bangladesh. On 24th April, 2013 more than a thousand people were killed when an eight storey building collapsed in the heart of Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka. The collapse of Rana Plaza turned the world’s attention to the shocking conditions workers in the country’s clothing industry are forced to endure. In recent years, Australian companies have flooded into Bangladesh to take advantage of lax labour laws and the lowest wages in the world, paid to the predominantly young, female workers in the factories.
Using undercover filming, Sex and Survival in Madagascar exposes the booming child sex trade of the 21st Century. In the hub of Madagascar, one of the world’s poorest countries, prostitution is rampant and seen as an unavoidable means of survival. The film shows the complicity and complacency of authorities that do not act to stop this terror, and so the acts of resistance against sex slavery are carried out by the children themselves.
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…
Not Anymore: A Story of Revolution is a short film about the Syrian struggle for freedom as experienced by a 32 year old rebel commander, Mowya; and a 24 year old female journalist, Nour; in Aleppo, Syria. The film shows why Syrians are fighting for their freedom, told through the emotional words of two powerful characters whose lives have been torn apart by war.
White Like Me, based on the work of acclaimed anti-racist educator and author Tim Wise, explores race and racism in the United States through the lens of whiteness and white privilege. In a stunning reassessment of the American ideal of meritocracy and claims that we’ve entered a post-racial society, Wise offers a fascinating look back at the race-based white entitlement programs that built the American middle class, and argues that our failure as a society to come to terms with this legacy of white privilege continues to perpetuate racial inequality and race-driven political resentments today.