In the late 1990s, the Reserve Bank of Australia thought it was on a winner. The bank had developed the technology to create polymer bank notes that it claimed rivalled paper money. So the Reserve Bank decided to set up a subsidiary company called Securency to sell the technology to the world. It had just one problem though—getting legitimate access to other central bank officials to pitch the idea. So instead, Securency decided to employ a shadow network of local “fixer agents” to make “connections” with relevant officials, lavishing them with prostitutes, cash, and bribing them into deals. Dirty Money is the story of this institutional corruption at the highest level of finance in Australia.
The Niger Delta is still an environmental disaster after more than fifty years of oil exploitation. One and a half million tons of crude oil has been spilled into the creeks, farms and forests so far. Natural gas contained in the crude oil is burnt off in gas flares which spread toxins, acid rain and destroy crops. Poison Fire documents the life of the locals in impoverished communities, creeks full of crude oil, devastated mangrove forests, wellheads leaking gas, all working to fight against oil giant Shell to at least stop the toxic gas flares…
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?
Sugar Coated investigates a once secret public relations campaign, dating back to the 1970s, where the sugar industry deflected threats to its multi-billion dollar empire from scientific research emerging implicating processed sugar with adverse health effects. In order to continue sweetening the world’s food supply, thus securing continued profits, the sugar industry turned to the very same deceptions and tactics lifted from the tobacco industry. Using big sugar’s own internal documents on this strategy, Sugar Coated reveals the well-oiled tricks of the trade to confuse the public about what is really driving the global pandemic of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Will we be fooled again?
Project X is a short film taking viewers on an undercover journey based on formerly top-secret documents that show a partnership between the National Security Agency and telecommunications corporations such as AT&T and Verizon for mass surveillance and bulk data collection of voice and data. The documents reveal TITANPOINTE, the codename for a large windowless sky scraper in New York, where AT&T and other corporations house vast Internet switching equipment and data centres. The facility is also tied to a nearby FBI building, and its rooftop equipment to the SKIDROWE satellite surveillance system. These findings were possible because of documents released to the public by Edward Snowden and other brave whistleblowers.
Every day, escalating technologies are being used to monitor all of us as populations with unprecedented scrutiny—from driving habits to workplace surveillance, as shoppers, as consumers, as citizens. We are all increasingly being observed and analysed. Internet searches are monitored and used as evidence in court, the police track our movements on the road, governments collect our DNA, fingerprints and iris scans, corporations assemble huge databases for profiling and selling data, while governments collude with such lucrative businesses—for example, Acxiom, Lexis Nexis and ChoicePoint—to gain access to vast volumes of information about people and the machinations of modern society. What will it take for us to stop this system before it boils over into a full-blown technocratic authoritarian regime?
Manufacturing Consent — Noam Chomsky and the Media explores the political life and ideas of Noam Chomsky, the renowned American linguist and political activist. Drawing on specific examples such as the corporate media coverage of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor and the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime of Cambodia, Manufacturing Consent shows how the collusion of government and media running the powerful propaganda machines that manipulate the opinions of the masses, is manufacturing consent.
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…
In the early hours of March 24th 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil supertanker runs aground in Alaska. The ship discharges several tens of millions of gallons of crude oil. The incident becomes the biggest environmental assault in North American history, and in a flash, the news shoots across the planet along with footage of thousands of dead seabirds, sea otters and other marine life covered in oil, devastated. Thick black tides rise and cover the beaches of the once-pristine reefs of Alaska. Black Wave recalls this event, a generation later, by speaking with renowned marine toxicologist Riki Ott and the fishermen of the little town of Cordova, Alaska. They tell us all about the environmental and social consequences of the black wave that changed their lives forever—the legacy of the Exxon Valdez that still lingers today.
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.
What does the corporate-controlled food industry look like? Film-maker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on today’s food industry, exposing the underbelly that has been hidden from view of the consumer with the cooperation of government regulatory agencies such as the USDA and FDA. The food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the farmer, the safety of workers and of course, the environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won’t go bad. But we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually; are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children; and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults. And the whole mess is exacerbated by opportunistic politics—the tools of Big Agriculture running the very regulatory agencies that are supposed to protect the public—and consumers who have become accustomed to eating whatever they want whenever they want, in quantities they don’t need…
Two film students set out to explore the psychological and manipulative powers of consumerism by creating an extensive and pervasive advertising campaign for a fake hypermarket. The ads appear on radio, television, billboards; there is a promotional song, an internet site, ads in newspapers, magazines, and flyers with photos of fake Czech Dream products are distributed. Will people believe it and show up for the grand opening?
Corporations On Trial is a five-part series following just some of the many lawsuits being brought against multinational corporations for war crimes, conspiracy, corruption, assassinations, environmental devastation and payments to terrorists. Such serious charges have forced some of the world’s largest companies to hire high-profile defence lawyers to protect public relations in cases often brought by plaintiffs who are barely literate. These five films reveal a growing anxiety about the power and influence of big business, as many multinational corporations have annual revenues greater than some countries’ national budgets and indeed increasingly hold governments to ransom by their economic power. Around the world, ordinary people are fighting back and asking how many more times their interests should be sacrificed for corporate greed and shareholder profit…
The Gruen Effect is a biographical film of Victor Gruen, considered by some to be the grand architect of the modern shopping mall and pedestrian zone. His ideas about urban planning have led to cities that serve the new gods of consumption, developing concepts that have reshaped the modern world. But in perhaps the ultimate of ironies, a naïve Gruen initially envisioned shopping centres as utopian communal spaces that would bring people together. However, developers took these ideas to brood the emergence of suburbia and the new era of consumption that would come to define the post-war world. Viewed with a critical eye, and tracing the path from Gruen’s prewar Vienna, to the 1950s America, and back to Europe in 1968, The Gruen Effect can show the themes and translation errors that have come to define intensely colonising urban life, along with a disappointed Gruen appalled at the impact shopping centres have on communities.
Invasion is a short film about the Unist’ot’en camp, where Wetʼsuwetʼen First Nation peoples have been living on their traditional unceded territory since time immemorial, only to face repeated threats in the past decade by the Canadian government and corporations that are relentlessly pushing to install oil pipelines and other extractive industries on their land. Wetʼsuwetʼen feel they have a sacred duty to protect their land from harm and preserve it for future generations, and so formed the Unist’ot’en camp to resist the colonisers and their destructive ways. Located 1,200 km from Vancouver, the camp is on the shores of the Wedzin Kwah and mouth of Gosnell Creek, as a healing space for Indigenous people and settlers alike, and an active example of decolonisation and resistance.
Pandora’s Box — A fable from the age of science, is a six part series examining the consequences of political and technocratic rationalism, tying together communism in the Soviet Union, systems analysis and game theory during the Cold War, economy in the United Kingdom during the 1970s, the insecticide DDT, Kwame Nkrumah’s leadership in Ghana during the 1950s and 1960s and the history of nuclear power.
Walmart is an iconic American company, known worldwide for selling cheap retail goods. While economists and global marketers call Walmart a success, there are many stories of mistreatment of employees, and a general feeling of mistrust and discontent among the businesses it has destroyed, such as local community stores. Walmart — High Cost Of Low Prices highlights that it is worth being aware of the labour, social and corporate governance practices of companies that you do business with…
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…
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 Big Sellout reveals the reality of privatisation and globalisation by examining the corporate takeover of basic public services throughout the world, such as water supply, electricity, public transportation, and public health care. In South America, Asia, Africa, but also in Europe and the United States, filmmaker Florian Opitz talks to the architects of the new economic world order, as well as to ordinary people who have to deal with the real direct effects. The result is a tapestry of narratives the world over that show where the dogma of privatisation cames from, who profits from it, what societies lose, and why resistance is so important.
In September 2008 when the American economy was on the verge of melting down, the then-Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, his former protégé John Thain (CEO of Merrill Lynch), and Ken Lewis (CEO, President, and Chairman of the Bank of America) secretly cut a deal to merge Bank of America and Merrill Lynch — in the midst of stock collapse; a rocky merger; the worst fourth-quarter losses in at least 17 years; a stockholder revolt and an urgent need to raise more capital despite a $45 billion “bail-out” from the federal government…
The Coconut Revolution documents the struggle of the indigenous peoples in the Bougainville Island. The movement is described as the world’s first successful eco-revolution, in that the successful uprising of the indigenous peoples of Bougainville Island against the Papua New Guinea army stopped the mining plans of the RTZ company to exploit their land for resources…
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?
Instafame is an exploration of a teenager’s relationship with the concepts of success and fame through the lens of the screen, exemplified by the popular photo-sharing website ‘Instagram.’ The short film speaks volumes about this specific aspect of screen culture in that the notions of celebrity are self-reinforced in the closed-loop of the ‘social networking’ environment which is itself a purpose-built, commercially-mediated experience. So what happens to the notions of identity, friendship, personality and so on; in this space, and in the wider culture?
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.
Filmed over three years, Hacking Democracy documents a group of American citizens investigating anomalies and irregularities with the electronic voting systems used during the 2000 and 2004 US Presidential elections. The investigation revolves around the flawed integrity and security of the machines, particularly those made by the Diebold corporation. Could the elections have been rigged?
The Light Bulb Conspiracy investigates the history of Planned Obsolescence—the deliberate shortening of product life span to guarantee consumer demand—by charting its beginnings in the 1920s with a cartel set up expressly to limit the life span of light bulbs, right up to present-day products involving cutting edge electronics such as the iPod. The film travels to France, Germany, Spain and the US to find witnesses of a business practice which has become the basis of the modern economy, and brings back graphic pictures from Ghana where discarded electronics are piling up in huge cemeteries for electronic waste, causing intense environmental destruction and health problems.
On April 22, 2010 the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig, run by oil giant BP, sunk into the Gulf of Mexico—creating the world’s biggest and most catastrophic environmental crime in history. After over 750 million litres of crude oil and millions of litres of the chemical dispersant Corexit dumped into the sea, the disaster was deemed over and all damage repaired. This is bullshit however. Film-makers Josh and Rebecca Tickell travel to the Gulf of Mexico to document first-hand the extent of environmental and community damage, continuing many years after the explosion. Beginning by tracing BP’s origins and fingerprints across decades of US manipulation in Iran, The Big Fix assembles an indictment of this monumental disaster by unpacking the workings of the complex oligarchies that put pursuit of profit over all other ends…
Unprecedented looks at voting irregularities in the controversial presidential election in the United States from the year 2000. With a focus on the swing state of Florida, the recount, the ensuing supreme court decision in December, and future elections; the film also shows how fundamentally, many people—the majority being African-American—have outright been refused the ability to vote by a clever mix of legalese, electronic voting machines, political maneuvering and simple racism. A 1868 law prevented felons from voting—originally crafted to keep blacks from the polls in the wake of the Civil War—was resurrected in 2000, used to create a computerised list of people supposedly illegible to vote. The list had weird parameters and included as many as 57,000 to 91,000 non-felons; overwhelmingly targeting people of colour. On election day, these people were turned away at the polls. The role of electronic voting machines is also examined, as they are totally unaccountable and do not allow audits. The argument is made because of copyright over the software and trademarks. The machines also do not give paper receipts, so there is no physical evidence in case of the need for a recount. How does the United States—the so-called and self-proclaimed world-famous democracy—fair as one in light of this?
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.
The Mayfair Set is a four part series that studies how capitalists overtly and surreptitiously came to prolifically shape governments during the 1980s, epitomised by the Thatcher government in Britain at the time. But the corporate influence of political power doesn’t simply arrive, it rather culminates after decades of engineering rooted in the economic collapse from the aftermath of the Second World War. This series focuses on the unreported and almost unseen approach that capitalists have taken since the 1940s to gradually take control of the political systems of not only the United States and Britain, but elsewhere around the world—exemplified by the boom of globalisation.
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?
Ammo for the Info Warrior is a two part series of collections of short films by the Guerrilla News Network (GNN), an independent news organisation with a mission to expose young people to important global news and information free from corporate filters. Each part consists of a selection of 5 to 10 minute videos covering a range of stories, from the violent diamond trade in Sierra Leone; to the PR industry’s manipulation of public opinion; to analysis of IBM and its role in the Holocaust; to CopWatch, a movement of people keeping police accountable; and short slam poetry clips about the business of hip-hop. Ammo for the Info Warrior experiments with format with the aim of being an innovative educational tool to tackle serious socio-political issues for a generation brought up on MTV. It can be a catalyst for discussion and debate, encouraging the viewer to develop skills in critical thinking and analysis.
Did you know that the legal system recognises a corporation as a person? What kind of ‘person’ is it then? What would happen if it sat down with a psychologist to discuss its behaviour and attitude towards society and the environment? Explored through specific examples, this film shows how and why the modern-day corporation has rapaciously pressed itself into the dominant institution of our time, posing big questions about what must be done if we want a equitable and sustainable world. What must we do when corporations are psychopaths?
Across the globe, this culture is polluting, diverting, pumping and wasting fresh water at a crazy rate, as population grows and technology escalates. The rampant expansion of agriculture, housing and industry increase the demands for fresh water well beyond the limited supply, resulting in the desertification of the Earth. Corporate giants force developing countries to privatise their water supply for profit, Wall Street investors target desalination and mass bulk-water export schemes, while governments use water for economic and political gain. Military control of water emerges and a new geo-political map and power structure forms, setting the stage for global conflict over fresh water. Blue Gold follows numerous worldwide examples of people fighting for their basic right to water, from court cases to United Nations conventions, to revised constitutions, to local protests at grade schools, to complete revolutions. A line is crossed when water is a commodity. Will you fight to stop it and protect it?
The Dark Side Of Chocolate follows a team of investigative reporters into Africa where human trafficking and child labour fuel the chocolate industry worldwide. The film travels to Mali where hidden footage reveals the trafficking of small children to the cocoa fields in the neighbouring Ivory Coast and elsewhere. What is happening behind the sweet imagery of the chocolate industry?
For the past four years Submedia has been visiting a camp of the Unist’ot’en of the Wet’suet’en Nation in so-called British Columbia in Canada. The Unist’ot’en continue to fend off intrusions to their land by rapacious oil and gas companies. The threats are large and systemic and involve the very base of life itself. This two-part series of short films document the direct actions that are effective in keeping the threats of oil and gas out. Stopping the corporations physically is paramount, as they’ll stop at nothing…
The Society of the Spectacle is a film based on the 1967 book of the same name by French political theorist and philosopher, Guy Debord. The work traces the development of modern society, in which Debord argues that authentic social life has been replaced with representations, and that the history of social life can be understood as “the decline of being into having, and having into merely appearing.” This emerges from and gives rise to a pervasive and all encompassing spectacle in which relations between commodities have supplanted relations between people, in which “passive identification with the spectacle supplants genuine activity.” The film weaves the text of the original book with modern-day imagery, illustrating many elements of the spectacle, including that “the spectacle is not a collection of images, rather, it is a social relation among people, mediated by images.” This makes the material hard to decipher at times, especially with conflicting subtitles between languages: but this is part of Debord’s goal, to “problematise reception” and force the viewer to be active rather than passive. In addition, the words of some of the authors are “détourned” (hijacked) through deliberate misquoting. The result is a foundational work on the concept of the spectacle and its characteristics, to encourage critical thinking, to build and extrapolate critiques to apply to the wider social scale.
Pepsi vs. Coke in The Ice Cold War traces the history of the worldwide struggle for soft drink supremacy by the Coca Cola Company, against the backdrop of World War II. The war was the perfect vehicle for Coca-Cola distribution, including to the Nazis. Bottling plants on front lines were paid for by the US war department. Nixon got Kremlin supremo, Khrushchev, to pose drinking Pepsi, which became the first US product made in the Soviet Union. In 1949, Mao kicked Coca-Cola out of China. President Carter got it back in 1978. In Chile, Pepsi Cola’s boss ran a daily paper which was used by the CIA to help Pinochet’s bloody coup…