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?
All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace is a series of films about how this culture itself has been colonised by the machines it has has built. The series explores and connects together some of the myriad ways in which the emergence of cybernetics—a mechanistic perspective of the natural world that particularly emerged in the 1970s along with emerging computer technologies—intersects with various historical events and visa-versa. The series variously details the interplay between the mechanistic perspective and the catastrophic consequences it has in the real world.
By examining the modern culture of industrial civilisation and the persistent widespread violence and environmental exploitation it requires, END:CIV details the resulting epidemic of poisoned landscapes and shell-shocked nations, while further delving into the history of resistance and the prospect of fighting back against such abuse. Detailed is an overview of the environmental movement analogous with the historical whitewashings of the supposedly ‘pacifist’ social struggles in India with Gandhi and Martin Luther King in the United States; the rise of greenwashing and the fallacy that all can be repaired by personal consumer choices. Based in part on ‘Endgame,’ the best-selling book by Derrick Jensen, END:CIV asks: If your homeland was invaded by aliens who cut down the trees, poisoned the water, the air, contaminated the food supply and occupied the land by force, would you fight back?
The Bro Code unpacks and takes aim at the forces of masculinity that condition boys and men to fundamentally dehumanise and disrespect women. The film breaks down a range of contemporary media forms that are saturated with sexism—movies and music videos that glamorise misogyny, pornography that trades in the brutalisation and commodification of women, comedy routines that make light of sexual assault, and a slate of men’s magazines and TV shows that propagate myths of what it means to be a man in this culture: that it’s not only normal, but “cool” for boys and men to control and humiliate women. There’s nothing natural or inevitable about this mentality. And it’s extremely harmful in the real world. By setting the myths against reality, The Bro Code challenges young people to step up and fight back against this culture, to reject the fundamental idea that being a ‘real man’ means disrespecting women.
Subconscious War is a video essay exploring the influences of media and the culture of violence on reality, and the cultivation of collective values in society. The film contrasts the writings of Aldous Huxley and Neil Postman’s grim assessments; relating the concepts of works such as ‘Brave New World’ and ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death’ to the current cultural influences that foster today—corporate media and indeed media saturation, video games, television, and a pervasive technoculture, for example. What is being created? And what sort of people are being cultivated by this culture? Who benefits?
All over the world, species are going extinct at an extraordinary rate—currently around 250 per day—a scale never before seen. Call of Life investigates the growing threat to Earth’s life support systems from this unprecedented loss of biodiversity by exploring the causes, scope, and potential effects of this mass extinction. The film also looks beyond the immediate causes of the crisis to consider how our cultural and economic systems, along with deep-seated psychological and behavioral patterns, have allowed this situation to develop and be reinforced, and even determine our response to it. Call of Life tells the story of a crisis not only of nature, but also of human nature; a crisis more threatening than anything human beings have ever faced…
With economic collapse besieging the United States, domestic violence statistics show a sharp increase in violence against women. States are closing shelters and cutting support programs, and the culture ignores domestic violence, except when celebrities are involved on TV. In the meantime, more spouses have been killed by their partners in the past several years than soldiers have been killed in Iraq. Power and Control addresses this life and death issue during a time of urgent crisis, a timely and comprehensive exploration of physical and emotional abuse in dominant culture, as refracted through the story of Kim Mosher, a mother of three who has recently left her abusive husband. As Kim and her fragile daughters take up residence in a domestic violence shelter, the film follows the harrowing struggles in a single-parenting survivor’s quest to find work, housing and peace of mind. We also meet Kim’s husband, Josh, himself a survivor of abuse. His attempts to explain his behaviour are troubling—shocking in the context of the story’s final twist. The multi-level narrative also examines the root causes of domestic violence and the solutions that have evolved to stop it, celebrating the battered women’s movement activists who demanded revolutionary change in the 1980s, and examining alternative approaches now being advocated.
Author and activist Jean Kilbourne analyses the depiction of women in advertising and media by decoding a large array of print and television ads. What is revealed is a torrent of stereotypes; sexist and misogynistic images and messages; laying bare a world of frighteningly thin women in positions of subservience; collectively, the restrictive code of femininity that works to undermine girls and women in the real world. By examining these messages, Killing Us Softly asks us to take advertising seriously, and to think critically about its relationship to sexism, eating disorders, violence against women, popular culture, and contemporary politics.
Filmmaker Darryl Roberts goes on a five year journey to examine this culture’s burgeoning obsession with physical beauty and perfection, showing how increasingly unattainable images contribute to the rise in low self-esteem, body dismorphia, and eating disorders for young women and girls who also happen to be the beauty industry’s largest consumers. In almost 40,000 media messages a year, young people are being told that unless you look like supermodels and rock stars, you’re not good enough for anyone. In 2004 alone, people across the United States spent $12.4 billion on cosmetic surgery. America the Beautiful explores why these people are spending so much money to cover up their discontent that is mainly driven by advertising. What are the true costs of this culture’s obsession with youth, plastic notions of beauty, and impossibly slender physiques? Who actually benefits from this high-priced journey towards a fake ideal, and does it justify an entire nation’s psychosis?
Poisoned Waters investigates some of the root causes of what we see worldwide with ecological collapse, dead-zones and pollution effecting oceans, rivers and watersheds. With a focus on major waterways in the United States such as the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound, the film follows the culmination of decades of evidence that today’s systemic and growing environmental collapse comes not only from the toxic activities of industry, agriculture and massive suburban development; but also from the permeated satiety of chemicals in prolific consumer products such as face-creams, deodorants, prescription medicines and household cleaners. This is a startling reminder of the compounding threat facing our world and the need to act imperatively.
By planting a variety of fake celebrity-related stories in the UK media and having tabloid newspapers accept them without corroboration or evidence, Starsuckers navigates through the shams and deceit involved in creating a pernicious celebrity culture, uncovering the real reasons behind the addiction to fame and the corporations and individuals who profit from it.
With humour and refreshing candour, Red Moon provides a fascinating, often ironic, take on the absurd and frequently dangerous cultural stigmas and superstitions surrounding women’s menstruation. As educational as it is liberating, the film functions as both a myth-busting overview of the realities of menstruation, and a piercing cultural analysis of the ways in which struggles over meaning and power have played out through history on the terrain of women’s bodies.
Generation M looks at misogyny and sexism in mainstream media, exploring how negative definitions of femininity and hateful attitudes toward women get constructed and perpetuated throughout popular culture. The film tracks this across a broad and disturbing range of media phenomena: from the hyper-sexualization of commercial products aimed at girls, to the explosion of violence against women in video games aimed at boys; from the hysterical sexist rants of popular hip-hop artists and talk-radio shock-jocks, to the continually harsh, patronizing caricature of women found in virtually every area of media. Generation M posits the consequences of misogyny in all of its forms, showing that when we devalue more than half the population based on gender, we harm everyone—boys and men, women and girls alike.
This film explores what affect the web is having on our society, as seen through the eyes of “the greatest Internet pioneer you’ve never heard of.” Josh Harris—often called the “Andy Warhol of the Web”—founded a website during the renowned dot-com boom of the 1990s which was the world’s first Internet television network. This concept was way ahead of its time, before broadband, but would go on to become commonplace in the years to come. Using this platform, a vision of that future was also exemplified at the time—an underground bunker in New York City where over 100 people lived together completely on camera, non-stop and unedited for 30 days over the millennium. The irony in which this speaks to future events doesn’t end there though. As the experiment and the film shows, We Live In Public serves as a powerful analogy for the Internet as it’s now known today and the price we pay for living in its ‘public,’ showing just what the costs of willingly trading privacy and sanity for a constant voracious audience, attention, the pursuit of the cult of celebrity—but above all, the mimic of real human connection mediated by technolog—can be.
The Planet is a stylised observational video commentary that brings together an overview of the many global changes set about by industrial civilisation. Viewed through the myriad connections between consumerism and the false notion of a perpetually expanding economy on a finite planet, the film peers across the globe to reveal systemic exploitation; species extinction driven by industrial agriculture, logging, mining, manufacturing, pollution, the age of oil and plastic, etc; climate change; carrying capacity and population growth; while also positing that we—as in you and me—can do something, anything, to stop the destruction.
What if you live in the most destructive culture ever to exist? What if that culture refuses to change? What do you do about it? Derrick Jensen, the author of Endgame responds to these imperative questions and details how industrial civilisation and the persistent and widespread violence it requires is ultimately unsustainable—and what to do about it. Jensen weaves together history, philosophy, environmentalism, economics, literature and psychology to produce a powerful argument that demands attention…
The Virgin Trade investigates the growing phenomenon of Western sex tourism, with a focus on Thailand. The film travels through red light districts and the starry-eyed advertising propaganda that targets Western men to reveal the mechanics of the sex industry as it operates throughout Asia. What is revealed is a world entangled by money which leads to abuse, demand which perpetuates the culture, consumerism which drives demand, and poverty which drives the need. What happens when countries and cultures are ravished like this with Western sex tourism? Are parents selling their children into brothels to finance lavish Western lifestyles? Or do orphans fill the demand—smuggled into prostitution after disasters like the tsunami of 2004? The Virgin Trade dangles the questions of numbers while still affirming widespread exploitation and deceit. The interconnectedness, scale and depth of the problem, as well as what is still hidden or left unsaid, is left up to the viewer…
Following on from the series Planet Earth which looked at various forms of life across the globe, Planet Earth — The Future highlights the issues of conservation and the future of the environments and species featured in the Planet Earth series. Using interviews with the film-makers and eminent figures from the fields of science, conservation, politics, and theology, the series poses questions around the effectiveness of the environmental movement, and the future of the planet. A lot needs to change in order to ward off catastrophe…
Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People analyses how the storytelling of the West has crafted and perpetuated a false stereotypical image of Arabs and Arab culture since the early days of American silent cinema, up to the present with the biggest Hollywood blockbusters. The film shows how the persistence of these stories over time has served to powerfully naturalise and perpetuate prejudice toward Arabs, Arab culture and the Middle East in general, and how this in turn also serves to reinforce the harmful narratives of dominant culture which dehumanise Arabs as a people and negate the visceral political acts carried out against them by the West for decades. By inspiring critical thinking about the social, political, and basic human consequences of leaving these caricatures unexamined, Reel Bad Arabs challenges viewers to recognise the urgent need for counter-narratives to do justice to the diversity and humanity of Arab people, to share the truth about the stories of their lives and their history.
Moving Beyond Myth focuses on the sexual dilemmas and difficult life choices young girls face as they come of age in contemporary American culture. Challenging long-held myths about girlhood, the film draws on the insights of girls themselves to explore and shed light on their actual lived experience as they navigate an increasingly hyper-sexualized society. The voices of a diverse range of girls are supplemented with accessible analysis from leading experts on sexuality and society.
Spin the Bottle critiques the role that popular culture plays in glamorising excessive drinking and high-risk behaviour, in contrast to the ways alcohol affects the lives of real young men and women in reality. This film decodes the power and influence of seductive media images to show how they shape personal identity when linked to the use of alcohol. Nowhere is this link more apparent than on America’s college campuses. By exploring the party scene, Spin the Bottle also shows the difficulties young people have in navigating a cultural environment saturated with messages about gender and alcohol. Interviews with health professionals provide a clear picture of how drinking impacts student health and academic performance, but it is the students’ own experiences and reflections that tell the real story behind alcohol’s alluring public and cultural image.
Each year, legions of ad people, copywriters, market researchers, pollsters, consultants, and even linguists spend billions of dollars and millions of hours trying to determine how to persuade consumers what to buy, whom to trust, and what to think. Increasingly, these techniques are migrating to the high-stakes arena of politics, shaping policy and influencing how Americans choose their leaders. In The Persuaders, renowned media scholar Douglas Rushkoff explores how the cultures of marketing and advertising have come to influence not only what we buy, but also how we view ourselves and the world around us. The Persuaders draws on a range of experts and observers of the advertising and marketing world, to examine how, in the words of one on-camera commentator, “the principal of democracy yields to the practice of demography,” as highly customised messages are targeted to individuals using technology and fine-tuned social engineering techniques.
Race: The Power of an Illusion is a three-part series that investigates the idea of race in society, science and history. It navigates through myths and misconceptions, and scrutinises some of the assumptions that are taken for granted. The division of people into distinct categories—”white,” “black,” “yellow,” “red,” and so on—has become so widely espoused and so deeply rooted, that most people do not think to question its veracity. This series challenges the myth of race as biology, and traces its notions to the 19th century, demonstrating how race has a continuing negative impact through institutions and social policies.
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?
The Disney Company’s massive success in the 20th century is based on creating an image of innocence, magic and fun for kids. Its animated films in particular are almost universally lauded as wholesome family entertainment, enjoying massive popularity among children and endorsement from parents and teachers around the world. This film takes a close look at Disney, to analyse the world these films create for kids and the stories they tell and propagate; contextualised by the cultural pedagogy of Disney’s conglomerate mass-media control and vast corporate power. Including interviews with social commentators, media scholars, child psychologists, kindergarten teachers, multicultural educators, college students and children, Mickey Mouse Monopoly provokes audiences to confront assumptions about an institution that is virtually synonymous with childhood pleasure.
To many in both business and government, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power is truly moved into the hands of the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? The Century of the Self tells the untold and controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society. How is the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interest?
They spend their days sifting through reams of market research data. They conduct endless surveys and focus groups. They comb the streets, the schools and the malls, hot on the trail of the “next big thing” that will snare the attention of their prey — a market segment worth an estimated $150 billion a year. They are the merchants of cool: creators and sellers of ‘popular culture’ who have made teenagers the hottest consumer demographic…
Behind the Screens explores how Hollywood movies have largely become vehicles for the ulterior motives of advertising and marketing by the studios and media owners, rather than genuine storytelling or simple entertainment in their own right. By showing examples from popular movies such as Wayne’s World, Forrest Gump, The Lion King, Summer of Sam, and Toy Story, this documentary demonstrates how this trend toward hypercommercialism—through product placement, tie-ins, merchandising and cross-promotions—comes to define the modern movie. What are the problems with this, as well as the cultural and social impacts? Combined with analysis from film scholars, critics, political economists, and an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, Behind the Screens presents accessible arguments to these questions.
Over three programmes David Attenborough travels from Kenya to California to investigate the contesting claims about the current state of our planet. In the first programme he examines the extinction crisis, measuring the disappearance of some species against the mass of life that still remains undiscovered. Then the crisis is explored further by looking at the root causes, where finally, the last programme asks: What are the possible courses of action open to us to sustain the future of life?
War Zone is a short film about street harassment. Filmmaker Maggie Hadleigh-West walks crowded urban streets armed with a camera and microphone, trailed by one or two women also with cameras. Whenever a man harasses her, with ogling or words, she turns the camera on him, moves in close, and questions his behaviour. The questions are not usually for dialogue but more for making him as uncomfortable as he’s made her. More than 50 such encounters are included: the men react with bravado, embarrassment, or anger. None apologise. Interspersed are the filmmaker’s voice-over stories of growing up and dealing with men, as well as interviews with several women who talk about how they handle similar street harassment and what they feel about it. What does it feel like to be a woman on the street in a cultural environment that does nothing to discourage men from heckling, following, touching or disparaging women in public spaces?
This film examines the forces of culture influencing young people’s decisions about sex: media, family, religion, alcohol, and so on. By examining the cultural environment in this way, this film becomes a tool for facilitating informed discussions about the myriad influences facing young people. Filmmaker Dan Habib features the stories of eight young people, ages 16-24, and weaves them with observations about the messages young people get from popular culture.
I Am A Man is a film that links everyday black men from various socioeconomic backgrounds with some of Black America’s most progressive academics, social critics and authors to provide an engaging, candid dialogue on black masculine identity in North American culture.
Through exploring deep questions about the way mainstream media is organised and perpetuated in concert with technological development, media expert George Gerbner delivers a solid indictment of the way the so-called “information superhighway” is now being constructed. Following on from his solid work looking at the impacts of television on society, Gerbner turns to examining emerging technologies like V-chip and the way they interface with globalisation. This film urges the viewer to struggle for democratic principles in this emerging technoculture.
Focusing directly on the world of commercial images, Advertising and the End of The World asks some basic questions about the cultural messages emanating from advertising: Do these messages deliver what they claim—happiness and satisfaction? Can we think about our collective as well as our private interests? And, can we think long-term as well as short-term?
Television has colonised human storytelling—not only has creating and passing on culture been usurped by television and corporate media, today dominant culture is television and corporate media. The Electronic Storyteller outlines these changes and shows the cumulative impacts that television and mass media has on the way we think about ourselves and how we construct views of the world around us. With a focus on the stories of gender, class, and race, The Electronic Storyteller delivers an analytical framework to understand the pervasive forces behind what is at stake in the new world of saturated media and controlled imagery…
Is the human population going to outstrip the Earth’s food supply? The effects of modern agriculture not only lead to a short term food surplus which quickly slipped as population boomed, but agriculture itself causes huge environmental problems such as soil erosion, salinity and chemical pollution—all further illustrating an impossible system in perpetuity. Food or Famine looks at projects in North America, Chile, Indonesia, Africa and India which are participating in a worldwide movement to return to local food growing methods based on the land and healthy ecological principles. The film also examines the worldwide imbalance between food consumption and production, stoking the need to confront the mounting challenges ahead…
By addressing the question of violence and the media from a number of different angles, The Killing Screens presents a comprehensive view on how to think about the effects of the media environment in new and complex ways. In contrast to the relatively simplistic behaviourist model, that “media violence causes real-world violence,” renowned media scholar and researcher George Gerbner shows us how to think about the psychological, political, social, and developmental impacts of growing up and living within a cultural environment of pervasive violent imagery and narratives. What are some of the impacts of this culture and what can be done about it?
The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power is an 8-part series based on Daniel Yergin’s book by the same name, that captures the panoramic history of the largest industry in the world and traces it’s changing face over the decades. Each episode in the series focuses on an era of oil, from beginning to today; while examining the connections and ramifications of an industry that literally transformed global political and economic landscapes—while continuing to make its mark…
The filmmaker questions her sister, herself and others about the dreams and hopes they had growing up as girls in contrast to the reality they now face as women. Interviewees include a former Miss California contestant, a judge, a banker, an electrician, a secretary, and adolescent girls. They talk about childhood, athletics, careers, motherhood, body image, sexual assault and self-esteem. Made nearly 30 years ago, this film documents a growing awareness of issues affecting women. But have things changed today?
Controlling Interest is one of the first documentary films to provide a critical analysis on the growth of multinational corporations, and their impacts on people and the environment. Upon its release, Controlling Interest quickly became a standard audio-visual text for those concerned about the growing impact of multinational corporations, examining how the ever-increasing concentration of money and power affects employment in the United States, shapes patterns of development across the world, and influences foreign policy. This is the film that helped kick-off the anti-globalisation movement. Remarkably candid interviews with business executives provide a rare glimpse of the reasoning behind corporate global strategy, and the never-ending search for resources, ever-cheaper labour, and the commodification of life. The film documents the impact of corporate decisions on people around the world, including how “freedom” has come increasingly to mean the freedom of global corporations to operate without restriction. Some of the case studies include Massachusetts’ declining machine tool industry, Brazil’s “economic miracle,” and Chile before and after the 1973 coup.