Since the late 1980s, BBC news crews have filmed all across the Soviet Union and Russia, but only a tiny portion of their footage was ever used for news reports. The rest was left unseen on tapes in Moscow. Filmmaker Adam Curtis obtains these tapes and uses them to chronicle the collapse of the Soviet Union, the rise of capitalist Russia and its oligarchs, and the effects of this on Russian people of all levels of society, leading to the rise to power of Vladimir Putin, and today’s invasions of Ukraine. The films take you from inside the Kremlin, to the frozen mining cities in the Arctic circle, to tiny villages of the vast steppes of Russia, and the strange wars fought in the mountains and forests of the Caucasus.
The War at Home: The Untold History of Class War in the United States is a series that traverses the history of the labour movement and state repression in the United States. The series looks at history through the lens of the working class, from the Haymarket massacre in Chicago in 1886 to the Jim Crow spread in Louisiana, to the Triangle Shirtwaist tragedy of 1911, to the violent strikes and police raids of the Great Depression, and beyond. The series makes the connection between the purging of radicals from unions and the decline of union power in the 1920s, towards the 1960s and beyond.
9/11: I Was There presents an portrayal of the attack on New York on 11th September 2001, from the perspective of several ordinary people who chose to pick up their video cameras and descend into the chaos that was happening around them on that day. The film is a collage of their personal video diaries, that document the attacks as they unfold, and the aftermath.
Can’t Get You Out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World is a six-part series that explores how modern society has arrived to the strange place it is today. The series traverses themes of love, power, money, corruption, the ghosts of empire, the history of China, opium and opioids, the strange roots of modern conspiracy theories, and the history of Artificial Intelligence and surveillance. The series deals with the rise of individualism and populism throughout history, and the failures of a wide range of resistance movements throughout time and various countries, pointing to how revolution has been subsumed in various ways by spectacle and culture, because of the way power has been forgotten or given away.
Brazen Hussies documents how a daring and diverse group of women joined forces in Australia to create profound social change, contributing to one of the greatest social movements of the 20th Century. The film weaves archival footage, personal photographs, memorabilia, and lively accounts from the women who reignited the feminist movement in Australia, at times at great personal cost, to show how women began organising around issues such as equal pay, reproductive rights, affordable childcare, and the prevention of family violence and rape. As the story unfolds, these issues go from being dismissed as the outrageous demands of a few “brazen hussies” to becoming crucial elements of mainstream politics. The film documents how ASIO spied on the movement, the pushback from male-dominated media, and the impact of internal struggles, such as the inclusion of lesbians and the relevance of the movement to Aboriginal women. 50 years on, the work of this movement paved the way for where feminism finds itself today. And while the landscape, breadth and diversity of feminism is vastly different, without this movement and the changes it achieved, we wouldn’t be where we are now. Recording and celebrating this important history, offers a valuable opportunity to reassess and discuss where we are now as a society, what gains have been made, what is at risk, and where we are headed.
McCarthy chronicles the rise and fall of Joseph McCarthy, the United States senator who came to power after a stunning victory in an election that no one thought he could win. Once in office, he declared that there was a vast conspiracy threatening the United States—not emanating from a rival superpower, but from within. Then, without restraint or oversight, he conducted a vast crusade against those he accused of being “enemies of the state,” a chilling campaign marked by groundless accusations, bullying, intimidation, grandiose showmanship, and cruel victimisation. With lawyer Roy Cohn at his side, McCarthy belittled critics, spinning a web of lies and distortions while spreading fear and confusion. After years in the headlines, he was brought down by his own excesses and overreach.
Marion Stokes was secretly recording television twenty-four hours a day for thirty years. It started in 1979 with the Iranian Hostage Crisis at the dawn of the twenty-four hour news cycle, and ended in 2012 while the Sandy Hook massacre played on television as Marion passed away. In between, Marion recorded on 70,000 VHS tapes, capturing revolutions, lies, wars, triumphs, catastrophes, bloopers, talk shows, advertising—all of which deeply show how television has shaped the world of today. Remarkably prescient, Marion knew this, and saved it as a form of activism, knowing that archiving everything that was said and shown on television was part of the fight for the truth and historical memory, keeping those in power accountable. At the time, the public didn’t know it, but TV networks themselves were not keeping archives of their material, with huge swathes of recorded history lost. If it wasn’t for Marion, and the Internet Archive that will soon digitise her tapes for prosperity and free public access, these records would be lost forever. This film is about a radical Communist activist, who became a fabulously wealthy recluse archivist, and whose work was unorthodox, but also genius, even though she would pay a profound price for dedicating her life to such a visionary project.
In the United States, during the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, the rise of a white supremacist movement has returned, as political energy is injected into neo-confederate, neo-fascist, neo-Nazi, Klansmen, and various right-wing militia groups. More broadly, civil rights organisations such as Antifa (Anti-Fascist) and social justice groups are fighting back. Alt-Right: Age of Rage follows the development the Alt-Right, by following social justice activist Daryle Lamont Jenkins, and renowned Alt-Right leader Richard Spencer. Each movement is juxtaposed, as tensions boil over to the horrific events in Charlottesville where a young woman is killed, and 30 others injured by a self-identified neo-Nazi. Through these narratives and events, the film surveys the workings of Free Speech, deplatforming by the Left, the role of the Internet, and the consequences of fractured politics playing out in the real physical world.
On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh, a former soldier deeply influenced by the literature and ideas of the radical right, parked a truck with a five-ton fertiliser bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City. Moments later, 168 people were killed and 675 were injured in the blast. Oklahoma City traces the events that led McVeigh to that day from the perspective of the survivors, first-responders, investigators, and journalists who covered the events. The film provides an exploration of the convergence of various conservative religious movements and white supremacist militias that rose to prominence in the early 1990s, and were catalysed by the actions of government during that time.
Shortly before dawn on August 21, 1992, United States Marshals initiated actions to apprehend and arrest Randy Weaver, a former US Army engineer, when he failed to appear in court on firearms charges after being coaxed by undercover agents to sell them sawed-off shotguns after hanging out with nazis and white supremacists. Given three conflicting dates for his court appearance, and suspecting a conspiracy against him, Weaver refused to surrender, and members of his immediate family and family friend Kevin Harris resisted as well, isolating themselves in their mountaintop home in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. When federal agents surveilling the property got close to members of the family, they also initiated a gunfight that mesmerised the nation, leaving Weaver injured, his son killed, and Striker the family dog dead. In the subsequent siege led by the FBI, Weaver’s wife Vicki was also killed, while holding her baby, by a shot in the head from a FBI sniper. Drawing upon eyewitness accounts, including interviews with Weaver’s daughter, Sara, and federal agents involved in the confrontation, Ruby Ridge is an overview of a tragic catalysing event that helped fuel conspiracy theories and give rise to the modern American militia movement.
Servant or Slave follows the lives of five Aboriginal women who were stolen from their families and forced into indentured labour to be domestic “servants” for white people during the late 1890s and into 1900s in Australia. With the government exercising complete control over their wages and livelihood, many thousands of Aboriginal children were condemned to a treadmill of abuse, battery, rape, and slavery, only to discover that even today they’ve had to fight for recognition, respect and reparation for their treatment in the past. This film recounts their experiences, as a portrait of courage, strength and the fortitude to pursue justice for the crimes committed against them.
HyperNormalisation wades through the culmination of forces that have driven this culture into mass uncertainty, confusion, spectacle and simulation. Where events keep happening that seem crazy, inexplicable and out of control—from Donald Trump to Brexit, to the War in Syria, mass immigration, extreme disparity in wealth, and increasing bomb attacks in the West—this film shows a basis to not only why these chaotic events are happening, but also why we, as well as those in power, may not understand them. We have retreated into a simplified, and often completely fake version of the world. And because it is reflected all around us, ubiquitous, we accept it as normal. This epic narrative of how we got here spans over 40 years, with an extraordinary cast of characters—the Assad dynasty, Donald Trump, Henry Kissinger, Patti Smith, early performance artists in New York, President Putin, Japanese gangsters, suicide bombers, Colonel Gaddafi and the Internet. HyperNormalisation weaves these historical narratives back together to show how today’s fake and hollow world was created and is sustained. This shows that a new kind of resistance must be imagined and actioned, as well as an unprecedented reawakening in a time where it matters like never before.
Daryl Davis is an accomplished musician, a piano player who has played all over the world with legends like Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry. He is also an activist, meeting and befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan, many of whom have never met a black person. And when some of these same people decide to leave the Klan, Daryl keeps their robes and hoods—building his collection piece by piece, story by story, person by person. In Accidental Courtesy, Daryl takes the viewer on a journey from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to Memphis, from Alabama to Ferguson, Missouri, as he recounts the entwined history of black America and popular music. Along the way, he questions several current and former Ku Klux Klan leaders as well as young Black Lives Matter activists who vehemently disagree with his tactics of tacking racism in society.
In 1979, author and activist James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, Remember This House, which was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and assassinations of three of his close friends—Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. But eight years later, Baldwin died, leaving behind 30 completed pages. I Am Not Your Negro is a film of the book that was not finished, offering an incendiary snapshot of James Baldwin’s crucial observations on race relations in the United States, with a flood of rich archival footage. The film is a journey into black history that connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present of #BlackLivesMatter, questioning black representation in the United States and beyond.
13th explores the intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States, as titled after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted in 1865, which purported to abolish slavery throughout the United States and end involuntary servitude except as a punishment for conviction of a crime. The film contends that slavery has been perpetuated since the end of the American Civil War through criminalising behaviour and enabling police to arrest poor enslaved people and force them to work for the state under convict leasing; suppression of African Americans by disenfranchisement, lynchings and Jim Crow; politicians declaring a war on drugs that weighs more heavily on minority communities and, by the late 20th century, mass incarceration of people of colour in the United States. 13th examines the prison-industrial complex and the emerging detention-industrial complex, discussing how much money is being made by corporations from mass incarcerations.
In Requiem for the American Dream, renowned intellectual figure Noam Chomsky deliberates on the defining characteristics of our time—the colossal concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few and fewer, with the rise of a rapacious individualism and complete collapse of class consciousness. Chomsky does this by discussing some of the key principles that have brought this culture to the pinnacle of historically unprecedented inequality by tracing a half century of policies designed to favour the most wealthy at the expense of the majority, while also looking back on his own life of activism and political participation. The film serves to provide insights into how we got here, and culminates as a reminder that these problems are not inevitable. Once we remember those who came before and those who will come after, we see that we can, and should, fight back.
1966, United States. A new revolutionary culture was emerging and it sought to overthrow the corrupt systems of power waging the invasion of Vietnam, amongst the struggle for equality and civil rights at home. Beginning with armed citizens’ patrols to keep police accountable and challenge police brutality in Oakland California, The Black Panther Party put itself at the vanguard for social change, expanding in 1969 to community social programs, including free breakfast for school kids and community health clinics. This lead the FBI to call the movement “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country,” and start an extensive government program called COINTELPRO to surveil, infiltrate, perjure, harass, discredit, destabilise and disintegrate the movement. This film chronicles the story arc of the Black Panthers successes and failures, through the voices of the people who were actually there: police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors, and the Black Panthers themselves.
Plutocracy: Political Repression in the United States is a series of films that comprehensively examine early North American history through the lens of class, to enable a wider critique of the social order in contemporary United States. The series not only documents and exemplifies individual strikes and labour movements throughout the centuries, but also serves to connect the narratives and political lessons of an entire era from a working-class viewpoint, forming a solid base of analysis for class struggle.
Filmed over 18 months, Lessons in Dissent is a kaleidoscopic portrait of a new generation of Hong Kong democracy activists. 18-year-old Joshua Wong dedicates himself to stopping the introduction of National Education. His campaign begins to snowball when an interview goes viral on social media. With the new school year fast approaching, a showdown with the government seems inevitable. So with a microphone in hand, and still in his school uniform, he takes to the streets to protest, along with 120,000 people in support. Meanwhile, former classmate Ma Jai fights against political oppression on the streets and in the courts. Having dropped out of school and dedicated himself to the movement, he endures the persecution suffered by those not lucky enough to be protected by the glare of the media. Lessons in Dissent catapults the viewer on to the streets of Hong Kong, confronting the viewer with the country’s rising energy of dissent.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 terms ‘liberal’ and ‘radical’ have been thrown around a lot in political discourse over the past decades, largely with lost meaning. This is a significant gap in our political understandings as the worldview of liberal activists and radical activists are conceptually different—an education that most of us never had. Writer and activist Lierre Keith regrounds these differences as part of a larger understanding of how effective resistance can be nurtured and sustained.
Using collated footage discovered in the cellar of Swedish Television some 30 years later after recording, The Black Power Mixtape is a film that examines the evolution of the Black Power movement in the United States from 1967 to 1975. Commentaries and interviews carry the film, from leading contemporary African-American artists, activists, musicians and scholars which is divided into 9 sections based chronologically on each successive year between 1967 and 1975. The film focuses on several topics and subjects relevant to the Black Power Movement including Opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War, the Black Panther Party, COINTELPRO, and the War on Drugs.
How to Start a Revolution is a profile of Nobel Peace Prize nominee and political theorist Gene Sharp, who is described as one of the world’s foremost scholars on nonviolent revolution. The film profiles Sharp and his ideas, as well as their influence on popular uprisings around the world. There is particular focus on Sharp’s key text From Dictatorship to Democracy, which has been translated by activists into more than 30 languages, and used in revolutions from Serbia and Ukraine, to Egypt and Syria. Quiet and unassuming, a softly spoken Sharp describes how his 198 methods of nonviolent action have spread from his tiny Boston office to inspire and inform uprisings across the globe.
Truth in Numbers? Everything, According to Wikipedia explores the cultural implications and background of one of the most visited and referenced sites on the Internet. What is the role and impact of Wikipedia in the archiving of information and the preservation of culture? What will it leave behind? This film examines the unfolding legacy by weaving multiple perspectives about the impact of Wikipedia and provoking a deeper conversation on how knowledge is formed and what future generations will learn about history and the world…
Have You Heard From Johannesburg? is series chronicling a history of the global anti-apartheid movement that opposed South Africa’s entrenched apartheid regime. The movement encompassed many methods, including mass action, underground organising, armed struggle, and international mobilisation. This series focuses on the last category: the movement to mobilise worldwide citizen action to isolate the apartheid regime. Inspired by the courage and suffering of South Africa’s people as they fought back against the violence and oppression of racism, foreign solidarity groups, in cooperation with exiled South Africans, took up the anti-apartheid cause. Working against the odds, in a climate of apathy or even support for the governments of Verwoerd, Vorster and Botha, campaigners challenged their governments and powerful corporations in the West to face up to the immorality of their collaboration with apartheid, revealing that the battle was more than just political. It was economic, cultural, moral, and spiritual. The combined stories have a scope that is epic in both space and time, spanning most of the globe over half a century. Beginning with the very first session of the United Nations, and ending in 1990—when, after 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, the best known leader of the African National Congress, toured the world, a free man.
Oil Rocks—otherwise known as Neft Daşları—is one of the first and largest offshore oil-platforms ever built. The location is a vast industrial city in the middle of the Caspian Sea, ordered by the Stalin regime in 1949. 60 years on, Oil Rocks is still operational and the first western film crew in its history receives access. The result is this film which documents 200 kilometers of bridges, thousands of oil workers, hundreds of platforms, up to nine-story buildings, a park and a sports field—nothing less then an oil-rig ‘Atlantis.’ By combining archive footage from the Soviet era and interviews with workers, this film tells the story of the oil fields and the extremely hard work by those involved to this day.
60 years after the United States dropped nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, the events are still espoused with denial and myth in histories taught by the west. White Light, Black Rain breaks this acquiescence and accounts the bombings from the point of view of the people who were there, speaking with survivors of the attacks and four American military men that were intimately involved in dropping the bombs. The film intimately details the human costs of warfare and stands as a powerful warning that with enough present-day nuclear weapons worldwide to equal 400,000 Hiroshimas, we cannot afford to forget what really happened with these events.
This film profiles Howard Zinn, historian, political scientist and author, who tells us the personal stories about more than thirty years of fighting for social change, from teaching through to recent protests against war. A former bombardier in World War II, Zinn emerged in the civil rights movement in the United States as a powerful voice for justice. Although a fierce critic, Zinn gives the viewer inspiration in that by learning from history and engaging politically, we can each do our part to make a difference in the world.
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.
The hypocrisy of the United States government is scrutinized in Distorted Morality—a scathing thesis against war and the invasion of Iraq, presented by renowned scholar Noam Chomsky in 2002. Chomsky sets fair and logical parameters to test his ideas, before outlining the reasons why the United States post-9/11 “war on terror” is a logical absurdity. This, according to Chomsky’s carefully supported analysis, is because the US government has been, and continues to be, a major supporter of state-supported terrorism; favoring retaliatory or preemptive aggression over mediation in the world court, and avoiding accountability by excluding itself from the globally accepted definition of terrorism. Explored also are numerous historical examples to support.
In Australia between 1910 and 1970, one in three children were removed from Aboriginal families and placed in government institutions and foster homes. These children, in most cases, were never to see their family again. The film tells the story of three Aboriginal people who were removed. Bobby Randall, Cleonie Quayle, and Daisy Howard. Their stories are combined with interviews with well-known Australian historians Marcia Langton and Henry Reynolds, who describe the racist assumptions behind these policies. Removing children was a deliberate government policy and the aim was the eventual disappearance of Aboriginal people as a whole.
Bones of the Forest traverses the topic of deforestation through the lens of colonisation. Told through the eyes of both native and non-native elders, current and former loggers, environmentalists and protesters, the film shows the experience of the sights and sounds of threatened forest, alongside the plight of loggers and their families. The voices at times coalesce—loggers made redundant due to over-foresting, align with environmental activists who wish to save the forest from the destruction of this culture.
Making Sense of the Sixties is a six part series analysing certain facets of the social and political upheaval of the 1960s and beyond in the United States. The series chronologically examines the cultural and political changes which shaped the era and left an indelible mark on later decades. From the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King; to the rapidly escalating atrocities in Vietnam; to the height of the Cold War and the Space Race, Making Sense of the Sixties weaves historical retrospect with the experiences of ordinary people to capture the mood and mindset of the era.
Berkeley in the Sixties recaptures the exhilaration and turmoil of the unprecedented student protests that ended up shaping an entire generation in the United States. The Free Speech Movement caught national attention in 1964 when the University of California tried to suppress activists distributing literature and making speeches in an outdoor plaza on campus. The school governor ordered the arrest of students who had occupied the University’s Sproul Hall, leading the largest mass arrest in United States’ history. Police violence also helped politicise and escalate student uprisings, as awareness of the Vietnam War also kept the winds of dissent blowing, albeit as some movements attracted hedonistic individualism and broke away into fancifulness. On the other end was the Black Panther Party, which offered a militant alternative to the civil rights movement. This film recounts these events through 15 former student leaders, who grapple with the meaning of their actions, as their recollections weave with footage from thousands of historical clips and hundreds of interviews from the time. The film offers a reflective and insightful analysis of the successes and failures of the era—from the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings and civil rights sit-ins at the beginning of the decade, through the Free Speech Movement, anti-war protests, the growth of the counter-culture, the Black Panther Party, and the stirrings of the Women’s Movement—confronting the viewer with the questions the 1960s raised and struggled with.
The Secret Government, as its title suggests, is essentially an investigation into the processes, plans, operations and persons responsible for systemic abuses of power at senior levels of the United States government during the 1980s. The film covers multiple covert operations and secret projects, but takes a particular focus on the Iran–Contra affair of 1986, where Ronald Regan secretly facilitated the illegal sale of arms to Iran—which was the subject of an arms embargo at the time—to support a right-wing terrorist group called “The Contras,” and also make obscene profits from the sale of such weapons. Transported to the political happenings of today, The Secret Government is a call to remember history, and see that mass profits from weapons dealing running covert/secret wars were a reality then, and now, as well as to reveal just how far institutionalised propaganda and obfuscation works to conceal these home truths, still generations later.