Housing is fundamental human right. But in cities all around the world, housing affordability is decreasing at record pace. The local working and middle classes have become unable to afford housing in major cities: London, New York, Berlin, Hong Kong, Toronto, Tokyo, Valparaiso, Sydney, Melbourne, Caracas, Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm… the list seems endless. People are being pushed out of their very own homes—because living in them has rapidly become unaffordable. Told through the eyes of Leilani Farha, a United Nations special rapporteur on housing, Push touches on the foundations of the crisis, as we follow the rise of abstract finance and the pervasive influence of neoliberalism that conjures a perfect storm: the global financial crisis of 2008—where houses packaged as “complex financial instruments” were the core of the crisis. Then, once the financial industry was bailed out by the public to the tune of trillions of dollars, financiers bought up millions of houses around the globe for cents on the dollar, and their power and influence has only increased in the subsequent decades. Farha travels all around the world, speaking to people that now spend 90% of their income on rent, after wages have stayed stagnant since 1970s, and how large corporations swallow up entire communities, guided by the same politik. She says we still need to confront those old ideas—the financialisation of the housing ‘market.’ “There’s a huge difference between housing as a commodity and gold as a commodity.” These systems don’t consider the people they extract from.
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.
We Will Not Be Moved documents the unpredictable reality for thousands of Cambodia’s poor that are being forcibly evicted from their houses in the name of urban development. Cambodia’s land ownership was thrown into chaos when Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge extinguished private title but now money and corruption are playing havoc with the country’s attempts to bring back private property. There is one brave group known as the BK13—a group of 13 women—that are not prepared to let greedy developers take the very, very little they have. But with half a million residents forcibly evicted in recent years, it’s an enormous fight they have on their hands…
Six years after the housing bubble burst in the United States in 2008, the worst is yet to come. After a recent landmark settlement, major banks have lifted the freeze on foreclosures, with evictions again in full swing. Public housing budgets have been slashed, while the thin line between home ownership and homelessness grows ever more wide. People are angry about the impunity of the banks and some have found innovative ways of fighting back in an age of austerity. For Sale travels to Chicago and California to see how people at the forefront of the crisis are confronting the collapse of the American dream.
When the South African government promises to “eradicate the slums” and begins to evict shack dwellers far outside the city, three friends who live in Durban’s vast shantytowns refuse to be moved. Dear Mandela follows their journey from the shacks to the highest court in the land as they invoke Nelson Mandela’s example and become leaders in a growing social movement. The film offers a valuable perspective on the role that young people can play in political change, and is a modern portrait of South Africa. Dear Mandela is the centerpiece of a global community engagement project that educates slum residents about their housing rights and inspires young people to become leaders.
In the wake of giant speculative property bubbles and high unemployment, ordinary people are occupying empty buildings in urban areas and turning them into free, open and public space. Communities thrive alongside music and art collectives, concerts, food co-operatives and community gardens. One also finds construction workshops, child care, language classes, political talks and even legal advice on social and economic rights. Okupación focuses in on such community spaces in Madrid, Spain; and follows the fight to keep such spaces alive and open.
The Chicago Sessions explores the ethical implications of the financial crisis during three sessions with a group of law and philosophy students. The grounds of the University of Chicago provide a compelling arena, since it is here that both economist Milton Friedman—staunch promoter of free market capitalism—and Barack Obama, lectured. Examples of crisis related issues discussed during the sessions are: mortgage lending practices, foreclosures, bail outs and CEO pay. The students will test their ideas both on eminent professors and on field experts. The discussion is fueled and illustrated by case stories that the students themselves provide. The cases show how the financial crisis really affects the people of Chicago and in one example shows the consequences of the foreclosures in a neighborhood not far from the university and Barack Obama’s home.
For millions of people, the global economic collapse has generated curiosity about how money systems actually work, as opposed to how they’re portrayed, especially when so many financial pundits seem to be baffled. In The Ascent of Money, economist Niall Ferguson works through some history that created today’s money system, visiting the locations where key events took place and poring over actual ledgers and documents, such as the first publicly traded share of a company. Viewed with a critical eye, this series aims to show how the history of money is indeed at the core of civilisation, with economic strength determining political dominance, wars fought to create wealth and individual financial barons determining the fates of millions.
Imagine a home that heats itself, that provides its own water, electricity and spaces to grow food. One that needs no expensive technology, that recycles its own waste and that can be built anywhere, by anyone, out of garbage. Literally. Thirty years ago, architect Michael Reynolds imagined such a home and then set out to build. Today, there are strong communities of people living in these homes throughout the world, but all doesn’t come without the constant resistance and hindrance from government and big business which are rightly threatened…
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.
An Act of Conscience documents the story of two couples Randy Kehler and Betsy Corner who refused to pay income tax throughout the 1980s in an act of defiance against military spending and war. The film captures the support community that formed in response to the seizure of their home by the IRS, and the conflict with the young couple with a newborn who bought the home at a government auction. Was this an effective protest?