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?
Eat a takeaway meal, buy a pair of shoes, or read a newspaper and you’re soon faced with a bewildering amount of rubbish. Over the past 30 years worldwide garbage output has exploded, doubling in the United States alone. So how did there come to be this much waste, and where does it all go? By excavating the history of rubbish handling from the 1800s — an era of garbage-grazing urban hogs and dump-dwelling rag pickers — to the present, with mass consumer culture, modern industrial production and the disposable American lifestyle, The Hidden Life Of Garbage documents the politics of recycling, greenwashing and the export of trash to the third world as part exposé, part social commentary…
The Light Bulb Conspiracy investigates the history of Planned Obsolescence—the deliberate shortening of product life span to guarantee consumer demand—by charting its beginnings in the 1920s with a cartel set up expressly to limit the life span of light bulbs, right up to present-day products involving cutting edge electronics such as the iPod. The film travels to France, Germany, Spain and the US to find witnesses of a business practice which has become the basis of the modern economy, and brings back graphic pictures from Ghana where discarded electronics are piling up in huge cemeteries for electronic waste, causing intense environmental destruction and health problems.
From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. This is by design. The Story of Stuff serves as an introduction to the underside of the current world of mass production and consumption, exposing the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues — shedding the light on the hidden processes behind our modern world. How can we create a more sustainable and just economy?