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…
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…
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…
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?
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…
The Bentley Effect recounts the story of citizens throughout the Northern Rivers shire of Australia protesting against coal-seam gas extraction. When the community first learns of the news, a critical mass of people from all walks of life—farmers, landowners, mums, dads, activists, and scientists—come together to rally against the invasion. But despite enormous public opposition, the gas industry and the State Government are determined to see their plan through. So the community changes tact and resorts to differing methods of civil disobedience and non-violent protest. This culminates in a music festival of sorts in Bentley, New South Wales, which brings together the community and also spurs them on to initiating political action.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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”…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.