By the close of the Industrial Revolution, the food supply in the United States was tainted with frauds, fakes, and legions of new and untested chemicals, dangerously threatening the health of the public. The Poison Squad, based on the book by the same name from author Deborah Blum, tells the story of Dr. Harvey Wiley, a government chemist who was determined to banish these dangerous substances from dinner tables, and so took on powerful food manufacturers and their allies. Wiley embarked upon a series of bold and controversial trials on 12 human subjects who would become known as the “Poison Squad.” Following Wiley’s unusual experiments and tireless advocacy, the film charts the path of the forgotten heroes who together laid the groundwork for consumer protection laws in the United States, and ultimately, paved the way for the creation of the Food and Drug Administration.
Artifishal is a film about people, rivers, and the fight for the future of wild fish and the environment that supports them. It explores wild salmon’s slide toward extinction, threats posed by fish hatcheries and fish farms, and this culture’s relentless pursuit of engineering, mechanisation, and commodification in the face of environmental collapse. The film shows how fish hatcheries and fish farms threaten wild salmon populations, which in-turn has wide effects on the rest of the environment, but instead of helping wild salmon recover, this culture powers on with hatcheries and farms at great cost, both economically and ecologically. Artifishal explores the process, and what’s at stake if this culture continues its destructive path.
The central thesis of Planet of the Humans is that various people and organisations in the United States claiming to promote ‘green energy’ are actually promoting biomass energy—largely a euphemism for cutting down and burning forests—a practice which is not carbon neutral nor renewable nor sustainable. The film reveals the destruction of environments first-hand, and also explores how wind power and solar power don’t fare much better than fossil fuels in terms of impacts once all the inputs for construction and maintenance are considered and compared. In most cases, the additional demands for resources and construction simply invoke more environmental degradation and pollution. The film examines this push for more industry through key figures in the modern environmental movement that are funded by entities connected to fossil fuels, or have established profit motives, revealing how the environmental movement has been essentially co-opted into a de-facto lobbying arm of ‘green’ industries. The film also posits that regardless of energy systems, overpopulation is a central problem of industrial civilisation, and that this current way of life is unsustainable no matter how it is powered or ‘re-imagined’ by technology.
In post-industrial United States, the Chinese company Fuyao opens a car-glass factory in an abandoned General Motors plant, hiring thousands of blue-collar American and Chinese workers. Through an an observational format, American Factory presents the two distinct cultures, comparing and contrasting each other, as well as weaving subtle commentary revealed from the workers’ themselves about the nature of manufacturing work; their differing cultural and generational attitudes on labour rights and unionising; as well as observing upper management methods and corporate politics. The film is a collage of self-revealing messages about the cultures of high-tech China and post-industrial United States, shown through the lens of capitalism and the changing status of each country in the global economy.
90% of the consumer products are manufactured overseas, delivered by ship. Likewise with individual supplies, assembly parts, and even transportation oil itself. The shipping industry is the core of the globalised economy. Yet this industry remains largely obscure and unquestioned. As modern ships are too large to fit in traditional city harbours, they’ve moved out of the public eye, behind extensive barriers and security check points. Freightened: The Real Price of Shipping aims to open up this hidden world. What pulls the strings in this multi-billion dollar global business? To what extent does it control policy makers? How does it affect the environment above and below the water-line? And what’s life like for modern seafarers? Through journeys over many oceans, Freightened is an investigation the hidden machinations of globalised shipping, revealing its ubiquitousness but fragility, consequences and future.
Traversing the judgement placed on women who bottle-feed their babies, to the stigma surrounding mothers who breast-feed their toddlers, and the stigma of breast-feeding in public, the polarised topic surrounding breast-feeding sets off an emotional and personal debate in a highly eroticised culture, where it is hard for some to remember that breasts have a purpose that is not selling cars, beer, and sex. Milk investigates the overarching themes surrounding the commercialisation of infant feeding and its effects on child mortality, as well as the challenges it presents to adequate health worker training and the judgement placed on women regardless of how they choose to feed their babies. Milk also shows the natural world juxtaposed to the industrialised way in which we receive a new life into this world. Milk follows stories of mothers from different cultures spanning 11 countries, as it reveals the universal issues and challenges facing motherhood and birth today.
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine is not just another celebratory biographical film about the life of a business man that many around the world grieved in 2011. It’s a full rounded critical examination into the fundamentals of a person revered as an iconoclast, a barbed-tongued tyrant, a business sociopath. The real Steve Jobs is revealed like this through candid interviews from those who had close relationships with him at different stages of his life, including the mother of his child, Lisa, that Jobs refused he had, but named a computer after instead. The film also takes us through the evocative essence of the brand of Apple Computers which has captured the population like zombies, and asks the question: What is the legacy of this industry, and the truth of this kind of person that the culture celebrates so much, completely ignoring the darkness?
This film makes use of court documents, diplomatic cables and testimony by business figures themselves, as one case of many, in which corporations and indeed governments side with warlords, as good for business, in the endless pursuit of profit. The story revolves around the civil war of Liberia in the 1990s, with the seeds for exploitation and destruction having been planted a century before by the United States, when formally enslaved peoples in Liberia in-turn set up a society of racism, greed and exploitation, exacerbated by western economic powers. Years later, with the presence of Firestone corporation coming to Liberia to exploit vast plantations of rubber for control over the ‘market,’ the company unfolds as a considerable catalyst for systemic terror, being the forefront for pushing for profits at all costs amongst a brutal civil war; colluding with warlords and corrupt governments in pursuit of this ruthless end. Unfurling as a case study in these methods, this film documents the case that is not so unique but a story amongst many—particularly throughout the so-called third-world—where corporate might and globalisation have extreme consequences…
Clothes to Die For documents the worst industrial disaster of the 21st century—the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, in which more than 1,100 people died and 2,400 were injured. The eight-storey building housed factories that were making clothes for many western companies—Prada, Gucci, Primark, Walmart, H&M, Gap, and others. Through a series of compelling interviews and footage from the scene, this film gives a voice to those directly affected, and highlights the greed and high-level corruption that led to the tragedy. It also provides an insight into how the incredible growth in the garment industry has transformed Bangladesh, in particular the lives of women. Clothes to Die For raises fundamental questions about the global fashion industry and the responsibilities of all those involved.
Who Pays the Price — The Human Cost of Electronics is a short film that seeks to humanise the largely hidden and anonymous global labour force that enables the ubiquitous technoculture, documenting the harsh conditions in which electronics are made and how this really impacts those people’s lives, and the environment. Toxic chemicals, plastics, and sweat-shop working conditions all contribute to the global machine that disseminates digital technologies, hidden in plain sight. Through direct footage of factory workers, interviews with them and analysis of the conditions, Who Pays the Price asks the question of the viewer, and as a call to action to stop the exploitation and toxification of people and the natural world.
Aluminium is everywhere—beer cans, tinned food, cooking pans, computers, pens, cosmetics; and many medications, including most vaccinations. Though what do we know about this material? The Age of Aluminium profiles people whose health has been seriously impacted by unwitting exposure to aluminium; along with research exploring how aluminium as a known neurotoxin relates to the growing epidemic of chronic illnesses and disabilities such as breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, allergies, and autism. Aluminium mining and manufacturing have also created cataclysmic environmental problems in several parts of the world, as we see the devastating effects of aluminium mining in South America, and environmental disasters in Hungary and the UK. What are we doing with this material? And what can we do now to avoid the continued impacts on our lives and the natural world?
Fashion Victims looks at the real cost of cheap clothes from the conditions of sweat shops in Bangladesh. On 24th April, 2013 more than a thousand people were killed when an eight storey building collapsed in the heart of Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka. The collapse of Rana Plaza turned the world’s attention to the shocking conditions workers in the country’s clothing industry are forced to endure. In recent years, Australian companies have flooded into Bangladesh to take advantage of lax labour laws and the lowest wages in the world, paid to the predominantly young, female workers in the factories.
Chemical flame retardants are everywhere—in our furniture, our homes, our bodies. But do they work as promised? And are they making us sick? The three chemical companies producing flame retardants would prefer that we not ask these questions, and they’ve spent millions of dollars on lobbyists, publicists and influencers to ensure that we don’t. Toxic Hot Seat wades through the mess to piece together an intricate story of manipulation that details how Big Tobacco skillfully convinced fire safety officials to back a standard that, in effect, requires all furniture to be filled with toxic chemicals…
China’s factories provide low cost products such as computers and cars to the rest of the world, but the real cost is high with heavy air pollution, contaminated waterways, decimated land, terrible working conditions, widespread cancer and incidences of deaths. China’s Dirty Secrets travels across the country to follow workers at factories that assemble computers, then to e-waste dumps, and finally an industrial incinerator burning medical waste, all showing first-hand the extensive environmental impacts of so-called “economic growth.”
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?
The Idiot Cycle investigates six major chemical companies—Dow Chemical, BASF, Bayer, Dupont, Astrazeneca and Monsanto—that are not only responsible for producing decades of cancer causing chemicals and pollution all across the globe, but also profit extensively from controlling cancer treatments and the production of drugs for those treatments. The irony is palpable. Also examined is how these very same companies own the most patents on genetically modified foods that have also never been tested for long-term health impacts like cancer. When there’s dioxin in every mother’s breast-milk, rivers throughout the world that no longer support life, cataclysmic environmental damage from industry and manufacturing—when do we say enough is enough?
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 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.
In Mexico, ‘maquiladoras’ is a word used to describe the sort of factories that have become commonplace with globalisation—mass assembly and manufacturing plants primarily staffed by women for low wage and long hours in unsafe and toxic conditions. Tijuana has attracted so many such factories that it has gained the nickname Maquilapolis. Delving into the landscape of this, this film asks the question: What is the human price of globalisation? Maquilapolis brings American and Mexican-American filmmakers together with Tijuana factory workers and community organisers to answer that question and tell the story of globalisation through the eyes and voices of the workers themselves. The result is a film to inform and inspire, as each day the workers confront labor violations, environmental devastation and urban chaos…
Welcome to the world of industrial food production and high-tech factory farming. Set to the pace of conveyor belts, immense machines, surreal landscapes and bizarre sounds, Our Daily Bread takes an inside look at the industrial environment that mass-produces today’s food. Made entirely of visuals, without commentary, this film provides a raw view of the strange realities of industrial food production, which isn’t always easy to digest…
Santa’s Workshop — Inside China’s Slave Labour Toy Factories shows the long working hours, low wages, and the dangerous work and conditions inside these toy factories. Workers who protest or try to organise unions risk imprisonment. Low labour costs and government protections for multinational corporations attract more and more companies to China. Figureheads blame the Chinese suppliers, but they say in the same sentence that increasing competition gives them no option. What and whom to believe?
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 myths of globalisation have been incorporated into much of our everyday language. “Thinking globally” and “the global economy” are part of a jargon that assumes we are all part of one big global village, where national borders and national identities no longer matter. But what is globalisation? And where is this global village? In some respects you are already living in it. The clothes in your local store were probably stitched together in the factories of Asia. Much of the food in your local supermarket will have been grown in Africa…
Globalisation has gone to great lengths to coerce many countries around the world to open ‘free trade zones’ for Western markets, where businesses receive special tax benefits and other rewards for operating factories and exploiting cheap labour. The argument, as is always cited, is for growth of the global economy. Free Trade Slaves sets out to examine these ideas by looking at the realities of such practice. Told from the perspective of the workers in Sri Lanka, El Salvador, Mexico and Morocco; the film exposes systemic human rights abuses, harrowing environmental destruction, birth defects and other long lasting health problems and social issues. The filmmakers suggest that workers around the world need to assert the right to unionise and organise together to demand and retain decent conditions, and that consumers should do their part by boycotting companies that continue to abuse people and the environment.
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…
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.