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…
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.
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?
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.
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?
Audrie & Daisy is a documentary about the trend of teenage girls in the United States being sexually assaulted by their male classmates, and having the assaults recorded and shared on social media. It looks at the trend that the legal system tends to systematically minimise and dismiss cases, resulting in victimised girls not receiving justice. Girls often end up getting bullied both in school as well as online for being rape victims, and the pictures and videos are posted online—almost as trophies—by teens that have committed and witnessed these crimes. The online forum for sharing these images and comments has become the new public square of shame for adolescents. Audrie & Daisy aims to shed light on this dark corner of life facing young adults, and serves to form a powerful tool for honest conversation, analysis, and real justice.
New surveillance technologies are penetrating every aspect of our lives and we don’t even know it. All across the world, millions of cameras are watching us. The police are able to record almost every journey and operate on ever expanding powers of search and arrest; governments collect our DNA, fingerprints and iris scans while colluding with corporations to profile us and analyse our behaviour. All of these measures, it is said by the state, is to protect our freedom…
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.
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…
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.
How To Stop A Multinational follows three women in Argentina as they put themselves in harms way to stop a gold mining company from entering their town. With the activists having defeated a Canadian mining company, the campaign is now against a Chinese one that wishes to extend the operation, making use of large quantities of fresh water—up to 45,000,000 litres per day—a plan that seriously threatens the future viability of the town and the environment. This short film documents the campaign which is still in its early days, where activists carry out a series of direct-actions to stop the mining company from physically entering the town; training villagers, informing others and filming the outcomes along the way…
In 2015, peaceful protests and destructive riots erupted when Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American, died in police custody in Baltimore, United States. While the city waited to see the fate of the six police officers involved in the incident, who were all ultimately not punished, Baltimore Rising shows activists, police officers, community leaders, and gang affiliates, who struggled to hold the city together, as the homicide rate hit record levels. The death of Gray by police catalysed the longstanding fault lines in a distraught community, damaged by corruption and inequality. Baltimore Rising chronicles the determined efforts of people on all sides who are working to make their community better, sometimes coming together in unexpected ways.
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…
The Murder of Fred Hampton is a film which began with the intention of documenting Fred Hampton and the Illinois Black Panther Party during 1971, but during the film’s production, Hampton was murdered by the Chicago Police Department and FBI. The film project then quickly split into two parts: the portrait and biography of Fred Hampton, and an investigative report into his murder. The result chronicles important historical context. Hampton was a radical activist and deputy chairman of the national Black Panther Party, during the civil rights and black power movements in the United States. Hampton was killed as part of COINTELPRO—the illegal “counter-intelligence program” run by the FBI, aimed at destroying domestic political organisations through surveillance, infiltration, disruption, threats, violence and assassinations.
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…
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.
Orgreave in the North of England was the focal point for a mass protest by miners in June 1984. At this time, miners were angry over proposed pit closures and reacted by striking and pressuring other pits to close. The culmination of these protests was a mass gathering of miners from all over the country at Orgreave. On the morning of 18th June miners were escorted into Orgreave. At this point, police tactics already resembled a military campaign. After a push by the miners, the police acted with force, charging the pickets on horses. The protest soon turned violent with the police deploying dogs, batons and guns in an attempt to suppress the protest. The Battle for Orgreave interviews defendants directly about their experiences of Orgreave, and how those experiences changed their life…
What does it mean when so-called Artificial Intelligence systems increasingly govern all of our civil rights and social interactions? What are the consequences for the people AI systems are biased against? When MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini discovers that many facial recognition technologies do not accurately detect dark-skinned faces nor properly detect the faces of women, she delves into an investigation which reveals widespread bias in the algorithms that already drive much of the modern world. As she uncovers, these systems are not neutral, and are already having severe social and political impacts. Coded Bias documents this investigation, and the women who are leading the charge to ensure civil rights are protected from the relentless inertia of technology.
In 1978, Australia was shocked by the explosion of a massive bomb placed in a rubbish bin outside the Sydney Hilton Hotel in NSW. The perpetrators were never found. However, evidence that the Australian security and intelligence forces may have been responsible resulted in the NSW State Parliament unanimously calling for an inquiry in 1991 and then again in 1995. The Federal Government vetoed any inquiry. No investigation was held. The government then set-up the Australian Federal Police and increased support for “anti-terrorist measures”…
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.
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?
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 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.
All Light, Everywhere is an arthouse film that traverses the biases of how we see things, told through the use of police body-worn cameras from the Axon corporation. As such surveillance technologies become a fixture in everyday life, the film interrogates the myth of an objective point of view, probing the biases inherent in both human perception, the lens, and the culture driving the surveillance machines—asking what it means to look and see, but also what is not viewed, and the power imbalance of whom watches whom. Through provocative vignettes, the film provides space to dismantle the perpetual insistence that if everything was recorded and processed by purportedly “neutral” sources, then both criminal activity and authoritarian malfeasance would be reduced.
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 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.
S11 documents protest actions in Melbourne, Australia, 2000 against the World Economic Forum meeting. Specific accounts of police brutality and ferocious attacks on people protesting national and international issues are captured, in direct contradiction with mainstream media coverage, portraying activists as violent protesters.
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.
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.’
The Monopoly of Violence is a study of police brutality in France, specifically documenting the gilet jaunes protest movement of 2018 and 2019. But the footage could just as easily have been from the United States, or Hong Kong, or Britain. Citing the work of sociologist Max Weber as a starting point, which shows that the state has the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force, the film expands into the space of questioning a form of policing that descends into systematic brutality and violence. Using footage from demonstrators and independent journalists to ground the analysis, the images are discussed between lawyers, representatives of social movements, academics, police officers, and victims of police aggression. The result is a clarion call for the rights of the citizen, and the accountability and responsibility of the State.
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.
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.
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.
Copwatch depicts WeCopWatch, an organisation dedicated to video recording the police in the United States. For example, Cop Watch members capture original video of the deaths of Eric Garner in Staten Island and Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Its members legally record and document police arrests as part of a movement for police accountability and transparency, but often find themselves to be the victims of chaos and police brutality as a result of the culture of extreme police misconduct and violence. The stories are told through Ramsey Orta, Kevin Moore, who filmed the police abuse of Freddie Gray, and David Whitt who lived in the apartment complex where Michael Brown was killed, as well as Jacob Crawford, who co-founded Copwatch groups inspired by the Berkeley Copwatch group. The film shows how Cop Watchers are dedicated to bringing awareness to their community, by exposing police brutality and harassment.
In 1981, the New Zealand government invited the South African rugby team to tour New Zealand. This effectively split the country in half as the rugby tour was seen by some as endorsement of South Africa’s apartheid regime. Patu! recounts the mass civil disobedience that took place throughout New Zealand during the winter of 1981, in protest against the South African rugby tour. Sports grounds and suburban streets became battlefields as the film recounts visceral images of massive protest actions met with police brutality. Patu! is a record of heroism, and for many young people taking to the streets, it was their 1968. Māori and Pākehā, children and grandparents, gang members and clergymen—all in a moment of rare consensus, stood together to affirm shared values.
Following the police shootings of Bernardo Palacios Carbajal and George Floyd in the United States, Shots Fired investigates the use of deadly force by police in Utah, with local journalism partner The Salt Lake Tribune. The filmmakers are given rare behind the scenes access to police training, and in the police’s bid to smooth public perceptions, access to discuss tactics and accountability, as well as racial disparities in the way force is used. The film pieces together data and videos from police ‘use of force’ cases, and asks the hard questions about police culture in the United States in general.
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.
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.
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?
Told by the activists and leaders who live and breathe for justice, Whose Streets? is an unflinching look at the uprising in Ferguson in the United States after unarmed teenager Michael Brown is killed by police and left lying in the street. Grief, long-standing racial tensions, and renewed anger bring residents together to hold vigil, and protest the latest tragedy in a long history of police brutality. Empowered parents, artists, and teachers from around the country come together to act and support. As the national guard descends on Ferguson with military grade weaponry, young community members become the torch-bearers of a new generation of resistance. Whose Streets? is a powerful battle cry from a generation fighting, not only for their civil rights, but for the right to live.