In 2015, Sandra Bland, a politically-active 28-year-old black woman from Chicago was stopped by police for a minor traffic offence in a small Texas town. Three days later, she was found dead in a police cell. Though the state claimed it was a suicide, her death enraged the public amid allegations of racially-motivated police murder. This film begins in the days after Sandra’s death, tracking the ensuing two-year battle between Sandra’s aggrieved family and the State of Texas. Following the details about the case, Say Her Name is punctuated by Sandra’s own passionate and moving commentary in 30-second “Sandy Speaks” video blogs. We see an empowered, enlightened woman, whose sharp, humorous, charismatic remarks address subjects from educating kids about black history to police brutality to the importance of natural hair. Say Her Name takes viewers inside this story that galvanised activists across the United States and the world.
Investigate journalist A.C. Thompson reports on the background of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis involved in the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, 2017. The event itself was chaotic and violent, amidst a backdrop of general passivity by the police and supine intelligence agencies, peaking on the day with a self-identified white supremacist ramming his car into a crowd of protesters, killing a young woman, Heather Heyer, and injuring 19 other people. Documenting Hate contextualises the events of that day by looking at the renewed trajectory of fascism in the United States, and the kinds of people attracted to its place in modern times, while profiling some of the characters from Charlottesville that lurked in the background. The second part of the investigation deals with the wake of the deadly anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, showing how a neo-Nazi group, Atomwaffen Division, has actively recruited inside the United States military.
Do Not Resist documents, from the perspective of the police, their view of the social unrest following the shooting and killing of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, 2014, against a backdrop of the routine and escalating use of military tactics and high-powered weaponry by local police forces throughout the United States in the past two decades. Military equipment deployed throughout the Middle East returns home to be used against the citizenry. Local police recruitment and training is awash in military commandments backed by views of escalating ‘righteous’ violence and sadism. Meanwhile curfews are imposed, along with frivolous drug raids and incessant racial profiling. The voices of concerned citizens ignored. What is the cultural and technological trajectory here?
The setting is in the current and ongoing troubling police culture of violence, profiling and racism. Even a former NYPD officer now breaks ranks to say that the force aggressively targets poor and minority communities in order to meet secret and illegal arrest quotas. The result is a level of systemic harassment and brutality that could be hard to demonstrate, if not for growing groups of Cop Watchers—everyday citizens wielding cameras, that routinely record and publish troves of evidence documenting all kinds of patterns of police brutality and misconduct. This film follows some of the people who are doing this work, and clearly the police don’t like it. They push back hard. Cop Watchers hence face long prison sentences and trumped up charges for simply recording the police—something that is not itself a crime. In an age of intense corruption of public institutions, this film lays out abuses of power on a frightening scale, showing just how urgent serious action is required if a free society is said to continue to exist.
Over the past several years, a seemingly relentless string of killings by police of unarmed black men—Michael Brown in Ferguson, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Eric Garner in New York—has reignited issues around race, policing and civil rights in the United States that have been languishing unresolved for decades. Recently the issues are critical enough that the Department of Justice has stepped in to mandate reform of several police forces renowned for brutality and institutional abuses of power. In Policing the Police, journalist Jelani Cobb gets up close and personal with police departments and officers alike, to show from the inside the difficulties these institutions now face of fixing a broken relationship with the community after decades of mistrust. Is it even possible with the current police culture? Policing the Police is a powerful case study of these questions, and a light on just how much has to change.
Arresting Power documents the history of conflict between the Portland police and members of the community throughout the past fifty years in the United States. The film portrays personal stories of victims of police misconduct, the families of people who were killed by police, and members of community activist groups working for reform and abolition. Using experimental filming techniques, meditative footage, and official police radio audio feeds, Arresting Power pieces together a space for understanding a lens on the impacts of police violence and community attitudes.
Peace Officer explores both the militarisation and increasingly violent culture of police forces, as told through the career of William Lawrence, a former sheriff of Davis County in Utah United States, who established and trained the state’s first SWAT team. As a gifted investigator, Lawrence’s savvy skills help break the Ted Bundy case. He also sees SWAT enter the public consciousness and transform the culture of policing throughout the 1970s, along with the convergence of the War on Drugs on policing attitudes and police violence. He eventually leaves public office, concerned, when soon after, his son-in-law is killed in an emergency call gone awry by the very same SWAT unit he created 30 years ago. An internal investigation of course finds no police wrongdoing, so Lawrence turns to his own renowned investigative skills. He sets out to not only uncover the truth of his son-in-law’s homicide, but to tackle the culture and attitudes of modern-day policing on a national level.
In the early 2000s, two brothers garnered tremendous wealth when they started a company selling so-called “non-lethal” taser weapons, which quickly saturated police agencies and reinforced a culture of trigger-happy police officers. But instead of “saving lives” as was the catch-cry of the taser, and the company, the weapons were instead commonly used for pain compliance, and lead to a spurious string of deaths. The company didn’t back down. They insisted, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, that their weapon was safe and not at fault—not even a contributing factor—in the killings. Killing Them Safely delves into this troublesome mindset and that of the company, as well as the social implications of such weapons in a problematic police culture.
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.
The legacy of the Bush administration and the so-called “War on Terror” includes a new logic that stretches well beyond the realm of overzealous security agencies, airport security and international relations, and into suppressing public protest; expanded surveillance aimed at entire populations, but especially activists; and mobilising fear for social control. Special police techniques have even been developed and applied in order to specifically suppress dissent and manage protests, especially in the wake of the rising anti-globalisation movements towards the turn of the millennium. Preempting Dissent provides a quick overview of how some of this logic developed, as well as a glimpse of how political protest in the West has been shaped and controlled in the “post-9/11″ years, up to and including the so-called Occupy movement. By provoking a reflection of the implications of the logic of the “War on Terror” and how its applied to stifle political protest, Preempting Dissent aims to lay some of the groundwork to develop more effective resistance tactics.
Peter Francis, a former undercover police spy turned conscientious whistleblower, breaks ranks by speaking to the media after becoming troubled by the unaccountable culture of secret police operations throughout the United Kingdom targeting peace activists for decades. Tactics included undercover police officers having sexual relationships with activists, even going as far as commonly having children with the women they were spying on. Undercover agents also often assumed the identities of dead children in order to have “solid cover stories.” We also see how undercover police were asked to look for intelligence that could be used to discredit the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence and their campaign. The Lawrence family both speak of their shock at hearing about that the police did this to them. This short investigation opens a flood of questions about the secret history of covert police operations, and indeed the future of them in the context of the sprawling surveillance state of today.
In the spring of 2012, a massive student strike in opposition to a tuition hike, rocked the streets of the Montréal for over six months. Protests and mass direct-action on the street became part of daily and nightly reality. Several times during the tumultuous spring, the numbers in the streets would reach over one hundred thousand. Police routinely clubbed students and their allies, and arrested them by the hundreds. Some were even banned from entering the city. But every time the cops struck, the student movement got bigger and angrier. This is a story about how the arrogance of a government underestimated a dedicated group of students, who through long-term organising, laid the foundation for some of the largest mass demonstrations in Canada’s history.
Less than three years after a popular uprising that led to President Hosni Mubarak’s ousting, and just one year after Egypt’s first elections, the elected government has been overthrown and the Egyptian military is running the state. And the Muslim Brotherhood—the secretive, long-outlawed Islamist group that came out of the shadows to win the presidency in June 2012—is once again being ‘driven underground.’ Were the Brothers ever really in charge? Or was the Egyptian deep state—the embedded remnants of Mubarak’s police force, Supreme Court and, most of all, military—in control all along? In Egypt in Crisis, we go inside the Egyptian revolution, tracing how what began as a youth movement to topple a dictator evolved into an opportunity for the Muslim Brotherhood to seemingly find the political foothold it had sought for decades—and then why it all fell apart. With Egypt’s hopes for democracy in tatters, and the military-led government violently cracking down, what will happen next?
During the summer of 2013, a new area of occupied Sápmi (the northern parts of Fennoscandia in Europe) were under attack from the mining industry. If it were not for groups of brave resisters, the test blasting outside Jokkmokk in Lapland, Sweden, would have gone by without incident. The local Sámi people would have once again been exploited, and future generations poisoned without even a debate. But this time, something happened. The Gállok Rebellion tells the story of the resisters in Gállok, and shines a light on views which are not often televised. The film collates the efforts of many groups working together and serves as a call to action, to continue to protect the natural world which is under siege.
Perfect Storm offers an initial analysis of the underlying causes and wider context surrounding the riots throughout England in 2011. Contrary to the portrayals presented by mainstream media and trite political rhetoric around law and order, the riots were sparked by poverty, inequality and frustration over police killing a young man in Tottenham. How does the damage weigh up to the criminal conduct of banks and corporate tax avoiders when the costs of the riots are over four thousand times less than the recent financial crisis? Whose priorities are at play here?
Just Do It — A Tale of Modern-Day Outlaws follows a group of activists in the UK to document their protests and actions over one year dealing with issues around climate change. Demonstrations at Copenhagen’s 2009 G20 summit and at the Drax coal power station in North Yorkshire, England, are just some of the events documented.
In June 2010, leaders from the twenty largest economies met in Toronto, Canada with representatives of corporate interests to discuss the policies that shape globalisation. With exclusion zones, overlapping layers of security fencing and an estimated 25,000 police and military personnel, the city was transformed into an armed grid. Over 1.3 billion dollars were spent on security measures — more than all previous G8 or G20 meetings combined. Tales From The G20 shows some sides of the Summit, from unmarked vans with snatch squads of plainclothes police to the pre-emptive arrest of people now facing years in prison for organising demonstrations or simply being on the street…
Mark Kennedy was an undercover police officer who spent eight years as a infiltrator and informer on environmental movements and other protest groups throughout Europe. Confessions of an Undercover Cop accounts the actions of Kennedy from his perspective, which reveals an insight into the dark, twisted psychology of a police informant and the methods they use to destabilise movements and activists…
By examining the modern culture of industrial civilisation and the persistent widespread violence and environmental exploitation it requires, END:CIV details the resulting epidemic of poisoned landscapes and shell-shocked nations, while further delving into the history of resistance and the prospect of fighting back against such abuse. Detailed is an overview of the environmental movement analogous with the historical whitewashings of the supposedly ‘pacifist’ social struggles in India with Gandhi and Martin Luther King in the United States; the rise of greenwashing and the fallacy that all can be repaired by personal consumer choices. Based in part on ‘Endgame,’ the best-selling book by Derrick Jensen, END:CIV asks: If your homeland was invaded by aliens who cut down the trees, poisoned the water, the air, contaminated the food supply and occupied the land by force, would you fight back?
On October 15th 2007, a series of intense police raids occurred around the small village of Ruatoki in New Zealand. Operation 8, as it was called, was the result of 18 months of invasive surveillance of Maori sovereignty and peace activists accused of attending ‘terrorist training camps’ in the Urewera ranges—the homeland of the indigenous Tūhoe people. This film examines why and how the raids took place. Did the “War on Terror” become a global witch-hunt of political dissenters reaching even to the South Pacific?
The Tall Man is the story of an Aboriginal man, Cameron Doomadgee (tribal name: Mulrunji) who in 2004 was arrested by Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley (the so-called ‘Tall Man’) in Palm Island, a tropical paradise in Australia’s Far North. 45 minutes after the arrest, Mulrunji was found dead in the Palm Island police station. His injuries were like those of someone who’d been in a fatal car crash. The police claimed he had “tripped on a step,” but the community knew this was bullshit. The Palm Islanders protested for truth and burnt down the police station. The subsequent trial of Hurley—who had been decorated for his work in Aboriginal communities—made headlines day after day, shadowed by Queensland police threatening to strike. The police officer was acquitted for the death by the Attorney General. The Tall Man follows these stories by delving into the courtroom, the notorious Queensland police force, and speaking with the Indigenous community of Palm Island, where this tale is sadly still indicative of many of the continuing atrocities of Aboriginal deaths in police custody.
A secret illegal project from the 1950s, 60s and 70s called COINTELPRO, represents the state’s strategy to prevent resistance movements and communities from achieving their ends of racial justice, social equality and human rights. The program was mandated by the United States’ FBI, formally inscribing a conspiracy to destroy social movements, as well as mount institutionalised attacks against allies of such movements and other key organisations. Some of the goals were to disrupt, divide, and destroy movements, as well as instilling paranoia, manipulation by surveillance, imprisonment, and even outright murder of key figures of movements and other people. Many of the government’s crimes are still unknown. Through interviews with activists who experienced these abuses first-hand, COINTELPRO 101 opens the door to understanding this history, with the intended audience being the generations that did not experience the social justice movements of the 60s and 70s; where illegal surveillance, disruption, and outright murder committed by the government was rampant and rapacious. This film stands to provide an educational introduction to a period of intense repression, to draw many relevant and important lessons for the present and the future of social justice.
With economic collapse besieging the United States, domestic violence statistics show a sharp increase in violence against women. States are closing shelters and cutting support programs, and the culture ignores domestic violence, except when celebrities are involved on TV. In the meantime, more spouses have been killed by their partners in the past several years than soldiers have been killed in Iraq. Power and Control addresses this life and death issue during a time of urgent crisis, a timely and comprehensive exploration of physical and emotional abuse in dominant culture, as refracted through the story of Kim Mosher, a mother of three who has recently left her abusive husband. As Kim and her fragile daughters take up residence in a domestic violence shelter, the film follows the harrowing struggles in a single-parenting survivor’s quest to find work, housing and peace of mind. We also meet Kim’s husband, Josh, himself a survivor of abuse. His attempts to explain his behaviour are troubling—shocking in the context of the story’s final twist. The multi-level narrative also examines the root causes of domestic violence and the solutions that have evolved to stop it, celebrating the battered women’s movement activists who demanded revolutionary change in the 1980s, and examining alternative approaches now being advocated.
The Chicago Conspiracy reviews the legacy of the military dictatorship in Chile by sharing the story of combatant youth who were killed by the Pinochet regime as a backdrop to the history of the military dictatorship and current social conflict. The larger history is wrapped around three shorter pieces, which explore the student movement, the history of neighbourhoods that became centres of armed resistance against the dictatorship, and the story of the indigenous Mapuche…
Lethal Force takes a detailed look at four incidents, in different parts of Australia, where people suffering mental illness or psychological distress died after being shot or tasered by police. Specifically detailed is how in certain cases, the victims had even sought help at hospital and after having left of their own free will, were shot dead by police…
For 20 years the NSW Crime Commission went about its business with drugs quietly. When it scored a bust, it stood back and let politicians and the police bask in credit. But all that changed with the sensational arrest of the commission’s assistant director, Mark Standen, on charges of trafficking drugs. His spectacular downfall threw a spotlight onto the Crime Commission’s remarkable array of powers and how it abuses them. Secret hearings, witnesses compelled to answer questions, broad powers of search and surveillance, no independent review process…
Unwritten Future documents the events during the Republican National Convention in 2008 where excessive use of force and questionable tactics by police are on full show. Even peaceful radio host Amy Goodman is arrested. The film is dispersed with interviews with activists, asking them what they are fighting for, contrasted with police response and the aftermath.
Between 1970 and 1972, a group of activists used weapons to symbolically attack property, sparked by demonstrations in London against the Vietnam War. Calling themselves the Angry Brigade, the group published a series of communiqués with the actions, explaining the choice of targets and the philosophy. Targets included the embassies of repressive regimes, police stations, army barracks, boutiques, factories, government departments and the homes of Cabinet ministers, the Attorney General and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. The attacks on senior authority figures increased the desire for ‘results’ and consequently brought an avalanche of police raids. But from the start the police were faced with the difficulty of getting to grips with the section of society they found to be totally alien — were they facing an organisation, or an idea?
The Australian Federal Police—the glamour police force that was set-up after the Sydney Hilton Hotel Bombing in 1978—has enjoyed consistent showers of praise by politicians and the public ever since it’s inception. However, the once-lionised AFP is now being ridiculed for bungling, excessive secrecy and collusion after the catastrophic failings of the “terrorism case” against Dr Mohammed Haneef. Good Cop, Bad Cop reveals how the Haneef case is a symptom of the deep cultural problems that beset the AFP…
Law Professor James Duane from the Regent Law School in Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Police Officer George Bruch from the Virginia Beach Police Department, both explain why even innocent people should never talk to the police or agree to answer questions from the police. Citing a trove of examples and even though pertaining to US law, this talk is particularly applicable for political activists the world over as Security Culture 101.
This documentary looks at the erosion of civil liberties and increase in government surveillance since 1997 in the UK with the advent of “New Labour” and Tony Blair. Modern politicians, regardless of left or right, always seem to promise hope and change, but what is delivered is more of the same. To illustrate this, the film tracks 6 key areas that have been rapidly dismantled in so-called democracies over the last few decades: Freedom of speech; the right to assemble and protest; the presumption of innocence; the right to privacy; detention without charge, the prohibition on torture…
The Invisible War documents the rapid militarisation of police in recent years by looking at the deployment of so-called ‘non-lethal’ weapons and the real effects of their use. Shotguns loaded with bean bags, rubber bullets, wood, rubber, and foam cylinders; electrical tasers; pepper sprays, OC-gas, and other chemical weapons; microwaves, stink bombs, pulsed energy weapons and many more. What is interesting is that, according to an overwhelming amount of recorded cases, these weapons have turned out to have caused many deaths and/or serious injuries, and are more often used on peaceful non-compliant citizens, or protesters, as a means of obedience rather than protection—invoking serious questions about the future of police and society.
In 1929, in the face of collapsing demand for coal and a deepening economic crisis, mine owners in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, Australia; announced, with the support of government, that they would cut miners’ wages and strip them of their workers rights. When the workers refused to agree to these terms the mine owners locked the gates. 10,000 miners, pit boys and their families now found themselves without a job. What began as an dispute about industrial labour ended up overpowering a government, crippling an industry and besieging a community. This event challenged the rights of every Australian worker, and redefined the political and industrial landscape of a country that witnessed an event forever remembered as ‘The Great Australian Lockout.’
If one steps back and looks at what freedom actually means in the West today, it’s a strange and limited kind of freedom. The United States and its empire self-describe fighting the Cold War for “individual freedom,” yet it is still something that the leaders of our so-called democracies continually promise to give us. Abroad, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the attempt to force “freedom” on to other people has led to more than just bloody mayhem, and this, in turn, has helped inspire terrorist attacks in Britain and elsewhere. In response, the government has dismantled long-standing laws that were designed to protect individual freedom and civil liberties.
Nina Hobson, an officer in the Leicestershire police force, leaves the force disillusioned at the rampant culture of sexism, apathy and neglect that is rife amongst the institution. Five years later, Nina returns to the police force, but this time as an undercover journalist to document the culture behind the scenes, blowing the whistle. Filmed over four months, gaining unprecedented access to officers, Nina secretly captures footage first-hand showing the various ways the culture perpetuates itself. Reports of sexual assault and rape are not taken seriously, to the extent that in one scene, a female police officer says that if she was ever raped, she would not report it to the police. We see multiple cases where officers turn away from domestic violence incidents because they do not want to turn up, or do not want to answer emergency calls because they are out to get a meal instead. In another scene, officers are playing poker and indoor cricket rather than attending to others who are working with prisoners or doing patrol work. In another scene, a police officer boasts about how he pretended not to see someone injured and bleeding because he had a football match to watch while on duty. The examples continue. The result is that Undercover Copper not only exposes the brutality of these specific incidents, but posits fundamental questions about the police as an institution itself, embedded in a larger culture that is apathetic, misogynist, and self-interested. It shows just how much needs to be done to turn this around.
The Secret Policeman exposes first hand evidence of racism in the British police forces, revealing how much it has been driven underground since 2002 when a government inquiry branded the police as institutionally racist. Undercover journalist Mark Daly joins the Greater Manchester Police as a trainee, and infiltrates Bruche Police Training Centre in Warrington, Cheshire for several months using hidden cameras to capture direct instances of racism throughout the police force.
The Miami model was the name given to a set of tactics employed by police during protests in Miami, Florida relating to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) trade agreement meetings in November 2003. State Attorney Kathy Fernandez Rundle responded to allegations of police brutality by saying, “The police were very professional, very controlled… I think we have a model here for the rest of the world to emulate in the future when these sort of events take place.” This film documents these tactics from the perspective of the protesters, to show what really happened to them and to document their work opposing the FTAA, countering the mainstream media narratives of the event and the tropes espoused by those in power.
30 Frames A Second is an immersive first-person account of the events that unfolded during the week the World Trade Organisation came to Seattle in the United States, November 1999. The film is assembled from the perspective of 15-year veteran network-news cameraman Rustin Thompson, who became disillusioned with mainstream media and hence covered the WTO as an independent journalist. As such, even with press credentials for the event, Thompson is swept into the retribution of the state and police power which hit at the protests with tear gas, pepper spray, and police abuse. For him and the protesters alike, it begs the question about the functioning of the so-called democracies we live in, where civil liberties and human rights are curtailed in favour of facilitating the vast corporatocracy and global economic empire—precisely one of the points that sparked protests in the first place…
Recorded by over 100 media activists, this film tells the story of the enormous street protests in Seattle, Washington in November 1999, against the World Trade Organisation summit. Vowing to oppose—among other faults—the WTO’s power to arbitrarily overrule nations’ environmental, social and labour policies in favour of unbridled corporate greed, thousands of people from all around the United States came out in force to stop the summit. Against them was a brutal police force and a hostile media. This Is What Democracy Looks Like documents the struggle, as well as providing a narrative to the history of success and failure of modern political resistance movements.