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.
Enemy Image overviews the history of the portrayal of war in television news from the perspective of the United States. The film starts with the coverage of Vietnam where reports happened with little supervision, control or interference. Following this, The Pentagon takes action to control access by journalists to battle areas in subsequent invasions—such as the Invasion of Grenada, where journalists were excluded completely—to the first Gulf War, where ‘news packages’ were provided directly from the military; to the embedded churnalism of the invasion of Iraq. Shown is the progressive tightening of control by the US military on the contact journalists have with soldiers and civilians in the war zone, in order that “never again will television raise the moral and political questions that face a people during war.”
Class Dismissed examines the role of television in the ways in which race, gender, and sexuality intersect with class, offering a more complex reading of television’s often one-dimensional representations. The patterns inherent in the depictions of working class people are as either clowns or social deviants, stereotypical portrayals that reinforce the myth of meritocracy and have systemic social implications. By citing plenty of examples from today’s sitcoms, reality shows, police dramas, and daytime talk shows, Class Dismissed links television’s portrayals to negative cultural attitudes and public policies that directly affect the lives of working class people. A new media must be envisioned and created.
Is the threat of radical Islamism as a massive, sinister organised force of destruction—specifically in the form of al-Qaeda—a myth perpetrated by politicians across the globe, but particularly the American neo-conservatives, in order to unite and justify empire? This series of films charts the rise of both groups and movements, drawing comparisons between them and their origins, to provide much-needed and missing context to the War of Terror.
The Pentagon has a long tradition of cooperation with Hollywood. Movie studios can save millions of dollars and achieve spectacular success by securing use of military stock footage, military equipment, weapons and manpower. But the catch is that Hollywood must alter scripts, whitewash history, censor and present their films to display war and the military in a favourable way. As a consequence, mainstream commercial films become the best and most powerful, widespread propaganda…
Diamond Empire is a two-part series that investigates how an advertising slogan invented by Madison Avenue executives in 1948 has come to define some of the most intimate and romantic rituals and ideals of this culture. The films take apart the myth that “diamonds are forever,” exposing how one white South African family, through a process of monopoly and fantasy, managed to exert control over the global flow of diamonds and change the very way this culture projects the notion of courtship, marriage, and love—an achievement all the more stunning given that diamonds are in fact neither scarce nor imperishable. Zeroing in on how the diamond empire managed to convert something valueless into one of the most coveted commodities in history, these films provide a vigorous investigation into how marketing and consumer culture shape not only global trade and economics, but also our very identities.
Control Room presents a rare window into the US invasion of Iraq from the perspective of Al Jazeera, the Arab world’s most popular news outlet. Widely criticized and condemned by military figureheads, government officials and the mainstream media in the west for reporting with a “pro-Iraqi bias”, airing civilian causalities, as well as showing footage of American POWs, Control Room reveals the situation in Iraq that the US government does not want you to see…
Based on the book of the same title by Juliet Schor, The Overspent American scrutinises the form of consumerism ever-pervasive in this current era that is driven by upscale spending and debt; shaped and reinforced by a media system driven by commercial interests. We’re encouraged from all angles to spend money we don’t have, working longer hours than ever before. Illustrated with hundreds of examples, The Overspent American draws attention to both the financial and social costs of this giant consumption machine, where the frivolous and relentless search for “happiness” and identity is espoused by advertising.
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.
By providing a striking comparison of U.S. and international media coverage of the crisis in the Middle East, Peace, Propaganda and The Promised Land zeros in on how structural distortions in U.S. media coverage have reinforced false perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how, through the use of language, framing and the context of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza remains hidden in the news media…
The global growth of Rupert Murdoch’s media enterprise is cause for concern. The concentration of media ownership on a global scale in the hands of one man infringes on the freedom of the press by definition at the very least. But the real life example here is Fox News and it’s own claim of being “Fair and Balanced” — one only has to look at the coverage of the invasion of Iraq for example, or “commentators” such as Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity and the interactions they have with their “guests”; the vast political connections between Fox News, the Whitehouse and the Pentagon propaganda unit; the suppressed news stories, the censorship, the manipulation and control over the “news” by Murdoch and the president Roger Ailes themselves, not to mention the control over reporters, with former journalists alleging that Fox News asked them to lie and when they refused they were fired. Even lawsuits entailed from this with the court ruling that it is not against the law to lie on a news program…
Rebel Without A Pause follows renowned linguist and activist, Noam Chomsky through discussions and talks on various world events such as the invasion of Iraq, the September 11th attacks and the War on Terror. Chomsky also weaves in accounts of media manipulation, social control, and discusses the workings of the politics of fear. The film combines footage from large forums to small interactive discussions on these topics, as well as reflections from others…
How does one sell a war? This was a question that weighed heavy on the minds of those in the United States government long before the invasion even started. Operation Saddam: America’s Propaganda Battle takes a look at the marketing of war -– a cocktail of distortion, lies and forgeries -– as shown by former secret service agent Ray McGovern, American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh and best-selling author John MacArthur, presenting the individual stages of the propaganda battle, by which American, British and other governments sought to justify the second invasion of Iraq…
Could a media system, controlled by a few global corporations with the ability to overwhelm all competing voices, be able to turn lies into truth? This documentary examines the relationship between the media, corporations, and government. In a country where the top 1% control 90% of the wealth, the film argues that the media system is nothing but a subsidiary of the corporate world. Have we entered an Orwellian world of doublespeak where outright lies can pass for the truth?
If a key indicator of the health of a democracy is the state of its media, the United States is in deep trouble. In Rich Media, Poor Democracy, renowned media experts Robert McChesney and Mark Crispin Miller explore how the façade of a diverse mainstream media is in fact a system characterised by a handful of powerful corporations which leads to homogenisation and centralisation. Through numerous examples, we see how journalism has been compromised by business power and how conglomerates such as Disney, Sony, Viacom, News Corp, and AOL Time Warner produce a system of news that is high on sensationalism and low on information. This film suggests that unless citizen activism can reclaim the commons, this corporate system will be characterised by a rich media spectacle and an ever impoverished democracy.
The discrepancies between the “War on Terror” and the facts on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq are many. In 2001, as the bombs began to drop, George W. Bush promised Afghanistan, “the generosity of America and its allies.” Now, the familiar old warlords are retaining their power, religious fundamentalism is expanding its grip and military ‘skirmishes’ continue routinely. In “liberated” Afghanistan, America has its military base and pipeline access, while the people have the warlords who are, as one woman says in the film, “in many ways worse than the Taliban.”
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 belief that good triumphs over evil resonates deeply through the religious and political discourses of dominant culture. It is also a common theme in the entertainment media where the struggle between good and evil is frequently resolved through violence. The negative impacts of media violence on children has long been a public concern, but it is even more troubling when military violence, both in the news and in entertainment, is often glorified as heroic and noble. Beyond Good & Evil: Children, Media & Violent Times is a look at how mass communication distorts and manipulates language and visual imagery. It shows viewers how the media’s overriding objective of satisfying an audience converts real issues surrounding race, war, and violence into nothing more than spectacle.
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.
While advertising is clearly a visible component of the corporate system, perhaps even more important and pervasive is the often-invisible partner—the public relations industry. Toxic Sludge Is Good For You illuminates this hidden sphere of the corporatocracy, examining the way in which the management of public discourse has become central to how society has been usurped and is controlled by political and economic elites. The film tracks the development of the PR industry from its early efforts to win popular support for World War I, to the role of crisis management in controlling damage to the corporate image, while analysing the tools PR people use to manipulate public perceptions.
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.
In the aftermath of the events of September 11th, 2001; MIT linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky found himself called upon to provide much-needed analysis and historical perspective regarding this moment in American history. In the months following, Chomsky gave dozens of talks on four continents, conducted scores of media interviews, and published a book called ’9-11.’ In this film and in his book, Chomsky places the events of September 11 in the context of American foreign intervention throughout the postwar decades—in Vietnam, Central America, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Beginning with the fundamental principle that any exercise of violence against civilian populations is terrorism—regardless of whether the perpetrator is a well-organized band of Muslim extremists or the most powerful nation-state in the world—Chomsky challenges the United States to apply the moral standards it demands of others to its own actions.
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?
Mainstream media regularly uses public opinion polls in the reporting of news and political analytics. But how do media outlets report polls and to what end? In this interview, author and academic Justin Lewis demonstrates the way in which polling data is used by the media to not just reflect what populations supposedly think, but instead to construct public opinion itself.
At the turn of the millennium, a group of eleven girls aged 8 to 16 from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds were interviewed about their views on media culture and its impact on their lives. Their insightful and provocative responses reveal how the attitudes and expectations of young girls are influenced by a saturated media culture. Using excerpts culled from a typical week of television broadcasting alongside the interviews, What a Girl Wants aims to provoke debate about the effects of media culture and, ideally, act as a catalyst for change in media content.
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.
US Foreign Policy — The War Against The Third World is a video compilation series of 10 segments about CIA covert operations and military interventions since World War II.
At the time of making this film, the year 2000, computer games represented a $6 billion a year industry, and one out of every ten households in the United States owned a Sony Playstation—numbers that have no-doubt since skyrocketed. Back then, children played an average of ten hours per week—a stat also since to have increased today—and yet, despite capturing the attention of millions of these kids, video games remain one of the least scrutinized cultural industries. Game Over seeks to address this fastest growing segment of the media, through engaging questions of gender, race and violence. Game Over offers a much needed dialogue about the complex and controversial topic of video game violence, and is designed to encourage viewers to think critically about the games they play.
Produced twenty years ago, and even several years before the rise of Fox News, The Myth of the Liberal Media is possibly relevant now more than ever. The film dissects how news content gets shaped within a narrow and ultimately conservative institutional framework that marginalises other perspectives, filtering news events through a lens that serves power. Featuring scholarly analysis from Justin Lewis, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, The Myth of the Liberal Media asks: If you want to understand the way a system works, you look at its institutional structure. How it is organised, how it is controlled, how it is funded. The documentary examines the relationship advertising has in funding the media, and how this sets agendas, as well as exploring certain narratives that are propagated through a number of case studies that reveal how these mechanisms ultimately serve power instead of public interest.
Everybody who has survived adolescence knows what a scary, tumultuous, exciting time it is. But if we use memories of our experiences to guide our understanding of what today’s girls are living through, we make a serious mistake. Girls are living in a new world. Reviving Ophelia is a call from Dr. Mary Pipher, a psychologist who has worked with teenagers for more than a decade. She finds that in spite of the women’s movement, which has empowered adult women in some ways, teenage girls today are having a harder time than ever before because of higher levels of violence and sexism in the culture. The current crises of adolescence—frequent suicide attempts, dropping out of school and running away from home, teenage pregnancies in unprecedented numbers, and an epidemic of eating disorders—are caused not so much by “dysfunctional families” or incorrect messages from parents as by our media-saturated, image-obsessed 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.
This experimental film recounts the histories of plane hijackings and bombings throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s, and pits them against the media reporting of such events and the real-politick of the time to show the interplay between terrorism, political narratives and control of society. We see how aspects of the interplay have changed over time, and how the media culture has turned acts of terror into apolitical carnage-seeking voyeurism. Also presented by taking this view, is a commentary on how this culture has a hyperactive focus on terrorism while other much more deathly tragedies are ignored merely because they are mundane and non-threatening to political power. For example, more people die painful deaths every year by slipping in bathtubs than by any terrorist attack. This reveals the priorities of those in power, with the cultural focus on fearmomgering as a means for social control, and a disillusionment of the public in the age of decline.
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?
The Daily Mirror used to be a peoples’ paper that respected its readers and earned trust and affection. But that changed out of all recognition when the British public were told that the new information technology, heralded by The Sun’s move to Wapping, would bring a greater variety of newspapers and a more diverse media. Instead, what happened was rapid moves toward contracted press controlled by ever fewer proprietors. John Pilger describes the downfall of his old paper and the all-pervasive influence of Rupert Murdoch…
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…
Slim Hopes shows how the stories advertising tells us about food, femininity, and the female body directly contribute to anorexia, bulimia, and other life-threatening eating disorders. From ads that glamorise emotional eating with catch-phrases like “you can never have too much,” to ads that promote thinness and tell women to watch what they eat, Slim Hopes takes the advertising industry to task for sending young women in particular, a set of deeply contradictory and unhealthy messages about food and body image.
Using the 1992 presidential election as his springboard, film-maker Brian Springer captures the behind-the-scenes manoeuvrings of politicians and newscasters in the early 1990s. Pat Robertson banters about “homos,” Al Gore learns how to avoid abortion questions, George Bush talks to Larry King about halcyon and other drugs—all presuming they’re off-air. Composed of 100% unauthorised satellite footage, Spin is a surreal expose of media-constructed reality, posing larger questions about the functioning of not only corporate media, but the political systems in which they support and how this in-turn plays to the media-constructed reality and so on.
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?