At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal reveals a dangerous athletic culture that prioritised winning over everything else, including protecting young female athletes. For more than 30 years, Larry Nassar worked with gymnasts, as a respected trainer and doctor. He was charming, taught at church, volunteered in the community, and was seemingly well-liked throughout. He treated girls’ aches and pains, becoming a friend and confidant to many along the way, while also sexually abusing them during sessions for many years. When some girls began to speak up about their experiences, they were silenced, gaslighted or denied, all the way up to the highest levels of management, across multiple sporting institutions. After many complaints and eventually a cumulative legal investigation, Nassar ends up exposed as a serial sex offender. This film unpacks the scandal, its cover-up, and aftermath, through interviews with dozens of survivors, as well as coaches, lawyers and journalists, as one of the most high-profile paedophile trials in recent years. It documents the grooming, methods, and psychology of a charismatic sexual abuser, as well as the culture that enables and perpetuates it.
Cornered in the tiny building of the Ecuadorian embassy in the United Kingdom for half a decade, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his team are undeterred, continuing to release troves of important documents, even as the personal legal jeopardy he faces threatens to undermine the very organisation he leads and fracture the movement it inspired. Filmmaker Laura Poitras finds herself caught between the motives and contradictions of Assange and his inner circle. Filmed over six years, Risk is a complex and volatile character study of the forces that crescendo with a high-stakes election year in the United States and its controversial aftermath. In a world order where a single keystroke can alter history, Risk is a nuanced and curious portrait of power, betrayal, truth, and sacrifice. How much of your own life are you willing to risk?
In 2013, seventeen-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons took her own life. She had been gang-raped a year and a half earlier by her classmates and labeled a “slut” as a result. Despite transferring schools many times, she could not escape constant online harassment and in-person bullying. But Rehtaeh’s story is horribly not the only one like this to make headlines in recent years. Why is the sexual shaming of girls and women, especially sexual assault victims, still so prevalent throughout this culture? UnSlut tackles this question through a series of conversations with those who have experienced sexual shaming and how it manifests, while also offering immediate and long-term goals for personal and institutional change.
The Mask You Live In unpacks how this culture’s narrow and harmful definition of masculinity effects boys, young men; girls and women; and society in general in myriad ways, as our children struggle to stay true to themselves when confronted by this culture. Pressured by their peer group, heavily influenced by a barrage of media messages, and even their very own parents and other adults in their lives, our protagonists confront messages encouraging them to disconnect from and suppress their emotions, devalue authentic friendships, objectify and degrade women, and resolve conflicts through violence, control and manipulation. These traits and stereotypes closely interconnect with problems of race, class, and circumstance, creating a maze of identity issues boys and young men must navigate to become “real” men as the culture expects and perpetuates. Experts in neuroscience, psychology, sociology, sports, education, and media also weigh in, offering empirical evidence of how these issues intersect, and what we can do about it.
Rape on the Night Shift is a harrowing investigation into the rampant sexual abuse of the many thousands of unseen women who clean the shopping centres, banks and offices of some of the largest companies throughout the United States. The cleaning companies and contractors themselves are some of the largest companies throughout the country and the world. This report follows a prior investigation about systemic abuse of migrant women working in America’s fruit and vegetable fields, as well as packing plants and industry. Both set out to document the many aspects of a booming rape culture, driven in part by the synergy of a failure of criminal prosecutions, the legal system, a culture of pornography, the realities for migrant workers, and a perfect storm for human trafficking.
Rape in The Fields is the first part of a year-long reporting effort into the systemic abuse of migrant women working in the fruit and vegetable fields, packing plants and industry of the United States. The film travels from the almond groves of California’s Central Valley to the packing plants of Iowa, from the apple orchards of Washington’s Yakima Valley to the tomato fields of Florida, speaking with dozens of women who have been sexually assaulted and abused on the job. What is shown is that in the vast fields and orchards of today’s vast agribusiness, it’s easy for a rapist to stalk his victims, and the systems function in such a way to protect the rapist, rather than the workers. Many workers are also immigrants who dare not even denounce their attackers for fear they’ll be deported. The situation on the whole is rife for ensuring abuses. A Human Rights Watch report published in May of 2014 found that rape and other forms of sexual abuse and harassment of female workers was a common problem. This report sets out to shed a light on that problem and expose the new-style slavery and abuse of workers that still continues to this day.
Pornography has moved from the outskirts of society into the very mainstream of this culture in over less than a span of a generation. From MTV to Internet pornography everywhere, pop culture industries continue to bombard all of us with sexualised images of idealised women and men that jump off the screen and go straight into our lives, profoundly shaping our identity, the ideas and acceptability of body image, and our most intimate relationships. In this video essay, based on the book of the same name, leading scholar and activist Gail Dines argues that the dominant images and stories disseminated by the porn industry, produce and reproduce a system that perpetuates social inequality and encourages violence against women at its very core. In direct opposition to the claims that pornography has delivered a more liberated, equitable and edgy sexuality, Pornland reveals a mass-produced vision of sex that is profoundly sexist, destructive and pervasive in this culture—a world that severely limits and undermines our collective ability to live authentic, truly equal relationships, free of systemic violence and degradation.
Based on interviews conducted with hundreds of young women, Flirting With Danger examines how the wider culture’s frequently contradictory messages about pleasure, danger, agency, and victimisation enter into women’s most intimate relationships. The result is a candid and nuanced look at how women are forced to grapple with deeply ambivalent cultural attitudes about sexuality and relationships. These interviews are essential viewing for tackling the problematic issues surrounding consent, coercion and sexual violence throughout the culture.
Rape Myths on Trial is a provocative presentation by a career criminal prosecutor and advocate for victims of sexual violence, Anne Munch. She examines how cultural attitudes shape the outcomes of rape and sexual assault cases by drawing on years of experience prosecuting sex crimes, showing how rape cases often turn on the involvement of an “unnamed conspirator” — the often-unexamined complex of myths and stories we tell ourselves as a culture about sex, gender, power, and responsibility. By using examples from real cases, and harrowing evidence from actual emergency calls, Munch reveals how these assumptions that juries bring into the courtroom often stack the odds against victims, and at the same time challenges us to think critically about how our own assumptions might unintentionally reinforce victim-blaming. The result is a stunning look inside the criminal justice system and an incisive analysis of this culture’s warped views of women’s sexuality and rights as human beings.
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God examines the systemic abuse of children in the Catholic Church told through the story of four deaf men who set out to expose the priest who abused them during the mid-1960s. Each of the men brought forth the first known case of public protest against clerical sex abuse, which later lead to the sex scandal case known as the Lawrence Murphy case. Through their case, the film follows a cover-up that winds its way from the row houses of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, through to Ireland’s churches, and all the way to the highest office of the Vatican.
The Bro Code unpacks and takes aim at the forces of masculinity that condition boys and men to fundamentally dehumanise and disrespect women. The film breaks down a range of contemporary media forms that are saturated with sexism—movies and music videos that glamorise misogyny, pornography that trades in the brutalisation and commodification of women, comedy routines that make light of sexual assault, and a slate of men’s magazines and TV shows that propagate myths of what it means to be a man in this culture: that it’s not only normal, but “cool” for boys and men to control and humiliate women. There’s nothing natural or inevitable about this mentality. And it’s extremely harmful in the real world. By setting the myths against reality, The Bro Code challenges young people to step up and fight back against this culture, to reject the fundamental idea that being a ‘real man’ means disrespecting women.
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.
A young woman is raped when a one-night stand far from home goes terribly wrong. In the aftermath, as she struggles to make sense of what happened, she decides to make a film about the relationship between her own experience and the tangle of political, legal, and cultural questions that surround issues of sex and consent. Using a hidden camera, filmmaker Nancy Schwartzman goes head-to-head with the man who assaulted her, recording their conversation in an attempt to move through the trauma of her experience and achieve a better understanding of the sometimes ambiguous line between free will and coercion. The result is a powerful documentary about the terrible reality of rape and sexual violence, and the more complicated and ambivalent ways sexual assault is often framed and understood in the wider culture, examining issues too often deemed embarrassing, shameful, or taboo.
Abused—Battered Woman’s Syndrome and Murder is a revelatory film showing how the legal system of this culture treats women who fight back against their abusers. 19 year-old Susan Greenberg pled guilty to killing the man who systematically abused her and was sentenced to twenty-five years to life for first degree murder. After serving 18 years in prison, Greenberg was one of the first women to test a new state law that allows women convicted of murder to ask a judge for release based on evidence of Battered Woman Syndrome. This story follows her struggle and the surprising dramatic results.
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.
American Porn is an investigation on the forces behind the explosion of pornography available throughout the United States. Through interviews with the pornographers themselves, actors, lawyers, federal and state prosecutors, activists, and a Wall Street analyst covering the industry, American Porn examines the business ties between respected corporations and porn companies, the rise of extreme hardcore porn, and a political battle of the times.
Between 1999 and 2000, nearly 8,000 women reported a rape to the police. Out of those women, 90 per cent identified their attacker, and DNA evidence helped place the accused at the scene of the crime. But the admission of a prior relationship with the perpetrator counted against the victim. In any case, the conviction rate for rape is unbelievably low—only nine convictions for every 100 cases reported. Film-maker Rachel Coughlan follows the heart-wrenching stories of five women to win their fight for justice, showing in the process the systematic failures of the legal system in why such cases—the ones that do even make it to court—often don’t result in conviction.
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.
By the early 1990s, solid research and overwhelming evidence had prompted a growing awareness of the epidemic nature of date rape, especially on college campuses. But, starting in 1993, the media used the anecdotal comments of one young woman, Katie Roiphe, to undermine efforts to stop this continuing crime against women. How did this happen?