For years, the Earth Liberation Front—autonomous individuals operating in separate anonymous cells without any central leadership—carried out spectacular direct-actions against businesses that destroy the environment. Some of the targets were logging corporations, SUV dealerships, ranger stations, a slaughterhouse and a multi-million dollar ski-lodge at Vail, Colorado that was expanding into national forest. As authorities were not able to crack the case and disbanded many years later, the FBI got lucky when they were led to a former activist who agreed to co-operate with them and become an informant. If A Tree Falls provokes hard questions about environmentalism, activism, and the way ‘terrorism’ is defined by following the story of the activists who were turned over to the FBI, and their fate…
The terms ‘liberal’ and ‘radical’ have been thrown around a lot in political discourse over the past decades, largely with lost meaning. This is a significant gap in our political understandings as the worldview of liberal activists and radical activists are conceptually different—an education that most of us never had. Writer and activist Lierre Keith regrounds these differences as part of a larger understanding of how effective resistance can be nurtured and sustained.
Tūhoe — History Of Resistance documents the fight for justice of the Tūhoe people of Te Urewera, Aotearoa (New Zealand). Set on contested land in the Urewera ranges of the middle North Island, the film presents the ways of Māori—the indigenous peoples of the land.
If a crime is committed in order to prevent a greater crime, is it excusable? Is it, in fact, necessary? The Reluctant Radical follows Ken Ward as he confronts his fears and acts on these questions to stop climate change. After twenty years leading some of the most renowned mainstream environmental organisations, Ken witnesses first-hand how ineffective and unthreatening they are. As their efforts fail, and environmental collapse increases in scope and speed, Ken comes to see how direct action civil disobedience is the most effective political tool to deal with catastrophic circumstances. Ken breaks the law, to fulfil his obligation to future generations, to stop the oil economy. By following Ken for a year and a half through a series of direct actions, this film culminates with his participation in the coordinated action that shut down all the tar-sands oil pipelines in the United States on October 11, 2016. The film reveals the personal costs but also the true fulfilment that comes from following one’s moral calling, even if that means breaking the law and its consequences. Ken has no regrets.
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.
Testify: Eco-Defence And The Politics Of Violence examines the forces that drive revolutionary environmental activism, using examples of direct-actions from the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) to illustrate tactics…
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.
Using government documents, archive footage and direct interviews with activists and former FBI/CIA officers, All Power to the People documents the history of race relations and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States during the 1960s and 70s. Covering the history of slavery, civil-rights activists, political assassinations and exploring the methods used to divide and destroy key figures of movements by government forces, the film then contrasts into Reagan-Era events, privacy threats from new technologies and the failure of the “War on Drugs”, forming a comprehensive view of the goals, aspirations and ultimate demise of the Civil Rights Movement…
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.
Not Anymore: A Story of Revolution is a short film about the Syrian struggle for freedom as experienced by a 32 year old rebel commander, Mowya; and a 24 year old female journalist, Nour; in Aleppo, Syria. The film shows why Syrians are fighting for their freedom, told through the emotional words of two powerful characters whose lives have been torn apart by war.
An eclectic group of activists take a stand to protect an old growth forest from logging at Warner Creek in the Willamette National Forest of Oregon. The activists block the logging road, repel State Police and intervene to stop timber sales. Over months a community builds around the blockade and similar actions spread across the region. Filmed by the activists themselves, PickAxe is the account of the direct actions from the perspective of the participants to save Warner Creek…
Sweet Crude is the story of how large oil corporations such as Shell and Chevron have absolutely decimated the Niger Delta, but the people are fighting back. The film shows the human and environmental consequences of 50 years of oil extraction against an insurgency of people who, in the three years after the filmmakers met them as college students, became the young of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). The movement is born after series of non-violent protests, and what the corporations and colonisers don’t understand is that these people will fight for their land and emancipation until the end. Sweet Crude is their story of survival and armed resistance against corrupt governments and rapacious corporate power, amongst a complicit and collusive mainstream media.
From the front-lines of conflicts in Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, Palestine, Korea, and the North; from Seattle to Genova and the “War on Terror” in New York, Afghanistan, and Iraq, The Fourth World War documents the stories of women and men all around the world who resist being annihilated in this war. Centred around economics and systems such as NAFTA, GATT, the G20, APEC and others, this is a war which plays along with the spread of rapacious globalisation, a feat that has pervasive consequences in the real world…
How can we make political change if peaceful demonstration is not effective and violence only brings more violence? War/Peace posits this question by reintroducing two surviving figures from the Weather Underground movement of the late 1960s, Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers. Coming from the hippy counterculture, the Weather Underground was a radical militant organisation, with revolutionary positions characterised by the Black Power and civil rights movements, as well as opposition to the Vietnam War. In 1970, the group issued a “Declaration of a State of War” against the United States government, with the goal to overthrow the government and end United States’ imperialism, culminating in a bombing campaign targeting government buildings along with several banks. War/Peace rewinds to the past to draw out the complexity of these political struggles, and what went wrong, while drawing parallels to the struggles of today, where a lot has changed, but a lot has also remained the same.
In September 2005, Afghanistan held its first parliamentary elections in 35 years. Among the candidates was Malalai Joya, a courageous 27-year-old woman who had ignited outrage among hard-liners when she spoke out against corrupt warlords and criminals at the “Grand Council of tribal elders” in 2003. Enemies of Happiness is a revelatory portrait of this extraordinary freedom fighter and the way she connected with the people of Afghanistan. The film also serves as a snapshot of life and politics in war-torn Afghanistan from this time. As Joya rightly points out several Taliban warlords and wants them prosecuted for their crimes against the Afghan people, she is exposed to several death threats, and has been under constant protection. Can she overcome entrenched views and death threats to help bring democracy to Afghanistan?
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 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.
A Faraway Country is an examination of the Czech underground movement known as the Charter 77—an informal civic initiative in communist Czechoslovakia from 1976 to 1992, part of the Communist Soviet bloc. The film shows interviews with members of Charter 77, and others, describing first-hand the totalitarian communist regime, and their response to it.
The Square follows the anti-government protest movement in Egypt through the eyes of six very different activists, starting in Tahrir Square in 2011, up until the 2013 coup d’état. The film follows the activists on a life-changing journey through the euphoria of victory into the uncertainties and dangers of the current military rule, where everything they fought for is now under threat or teetering in the balance. The Square becomes an immersive experience, transporting the viewer into the intense emotional drama and personal stories behind the revolts. It is an inspirational account of people asserting their rights, struggling against multiple forces—from a brutal army dictatorship willing to crush protesters with military tanks, to a corrupt Muslim Brotherhood using mosques to manipulate voters; a struggle unfinished, unfolding.
Fascism Inc. examines a series of historical events to compile a view of the past, the present and the future of fascism and its relation to the economic interests of each era—including the current era. The film travels from Mussolini’s Italy, to Greece under the Nazi occupation; the civil war and the dictatorship; and from Hitler’s Germany to the modern European and Greek fascism. Following on from the foundations of earlier films such as Debtocracy and Catastroika which described the causes of the debt crisis, the impact of the austerity measures, the erosion of democracy and the sell-out of the country’s assets; Fascism Inc. aspires to continue to motivate anti-fascist resistance movements across Europe, and the world.
In the 1960s and 70s, the polarisation of the political situation in the United States was becoming acute with the Vietnam War abroad and civil rights at home being but the most obvious issues. For the youth political movement, the futile methods of peaceful protest led to the rise of an idealistic faction that undertook a more extreme approach to resistance. This faction, called the Weather Underground, attempted to team up with the Black Panthers to overthrow the US government—starting with street riots, escalating to bombing government targets. Thorough archival footage and interviews of the veterans of both sides, this film covers the movement, until changing times and disillusionment brought it to an end, alongside the FBI employing an illegal series of projects called COINTELPRO to hasten it…
Concerning Violence narrates the events of African nationalist and independence movements in the 1960s and 1970s which challenged colonial and white minority rule. The film is an archive-driven video essay based on author Frantz Fanon’s ‘The Wretched of the Earth,’ covering the most daring moments in the struggle for liberation in the so-called ‘Third World,’ as well as an exploration into the mechanisms of decolonisation. Fanon’s text, which was banned soon after publication more than 50 years ago, remains a major relevant tool for understanding and illuminating the neo-colonialism still happening today, as well as the reactions against it.
Away from its busy capital city and famous canal, Panama is one of the world’s most ecologically diverse nations. Yet huge new hydroelectric dam projects now underway are seeing pristine rivers damned and virgin rainforest flooded. The government says it is vital for ‘economic growth’, with international corporate interests rushing into the country, and even the United Nations awarding ‘carbon credits’ on the basis that the resultant energy will be “sustainably produced”. But for the indigenous Ngabe people—whose homes are vanishing under water—it is a catastrophe, and they are fighting back…
Invasion is a short film about the Unist’ot’en camp, where Wetʼsuwetʼen First Nation peoples have been living on their traditional unceded territory since time immemorial, only to face repeated threats in the past decade by the Canadian government and corporations that are relentlessly pushing to install oil pipelines and other extractive industries on their land. Wetʼsuwetʼen feel they have a sacred duty to protect their land from harm and preserve it for future generations, and so formed the Unist’ot’en camp to resist the colonisers and their destructive ways. Located 1,200 km from Vancouver, the camp is on the shores of the Wedzin Kwah and mouth of Gosnell Creek, as a healing space for Indigenous people and settlers alike, and an active example of decolonisation and resistance.
Earth at Risk documents the first conference of the same name convened in 2011 by featured thinkers and activists who are willing to ask the hardest questions about the seriousness of the situation facing life on the planet today. Each speaker presents an impassioned critique of the dominant culture, together building an unassailable case that we need to deprive the rich of their ability to steal from the poor, and the powerful of their ability to destroy the planet. Each offers their ideas on what can be done to build a real resistance movement—one that can actually match the scale of the problem. To fight back and win. Literally, the whole world is at stake.
In 2003, on the eve of the Iraq war, director Iara Lee embarks on a journey to better understand a world increasingly embroiled in conflict. Several years later, after travelling to five continents, Lee encounters growing numbers of people who have committed their lives to change. From Iran to Burma to Palestine and Lebanon, Cultures Of Resistance explores how art and creativity can mould with the greater culture of resistance, a part of the battle for peace and justice…
Maïdan is an observational film that documents the civil uprising and revolution that toppled the government of president Victor Yanukovich of Ukraine in 2014, and has since developed into an international crisis between Russia and the West. In long unedited strides, the film portrays the protests progressing over time from peaceful rallies, half a million people strong, to bloody street battles between protesters and riot police in Kiev’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square).
There are plenty of anarchists in the world. Many have committed robbery or smuggling for their cause. Fewer have discussed strategies with Che Guevara or saved the skin of Eldridge Cleaver, the leader of the Black Panthers. There is only one who has done all that, and also brought to its knees the most powerful bank in the world by forging travellers cheques, without missing a single day of work bricklaying. He is Lucio Urtubia from a tiny village in Navarra in North of Spain. Lucio, 75, now lives in Paris, still doing valued political work. Lucio has been protagonist and witness to many of the historic events of the second half of the 20th century. His family was persecuted by Franco’s regime; he was on the streets of Paris for the phenomenon of May of 1968; he actively supported Castro’s revolution; and helped thousands of exiled people by providing false documents to them. But without a doubt, his greatest triumph came in the second half of the 1970s where he swindled 25 million dollars from the First National Bank—or Citibank—to later invest the money in causes he believed in.
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.
For the past four years Submedia has been visiting a camp of the Unist’ot’en of the Wet’suet’en Nation in so-called British Columbia in Canada. The Unist’ot’en continue to fend off intrusions to their land by rapacious oil and gas companies. The threats are large and systemic and involve the very base of life itself. This two-part series of short films document the direct actions that are effective in keeping the threats of oil and gas out. Stopping the corporations physically is paramount, as they’ll stop at nothing…
Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance documents the ‘Oka Crisis’ of 1990 in which the government of Oka, Canada, pushed for plans to develop a private golf course and new luxury housing on sacred indigenous land. The film captures the events as they unfold, from the beginnings as frivolous government ‘negotiations’ to the resulting siege by the Canadian Army and local police…
In 1974, a young Patty Hearst became a media icon after she was kidnapped from her apartment by a group calling itself the Symbionese (taken from the word ‘symbiosis’) Liberation Army (SLA). At the time, Patty was an impressionable college student who happened to be the granddaughter of the infamous newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Hoping to spark a class war in America, for ransom, the SLA instructed the Hearsts to make a multi-million dollar donation of food to the poor. Two months later, Patty appeared to have joined forces with the SLA. As the spectacle unfolds, journalists camp outside the Hearst’s home and become consumed by the story, some even questioning the role of the media in the saga. Guerrilla serves to document some of what happened to Patty Hearst during this time, the effects of Stockholm Syndrome, how and why the SLA was formed, and what ultimately went awry.
The Revolution Business examines the role of United States intelligence agencies in the recent revolutionary movements such as the Arab Spring and others by the use of “Revolution Consultants.” Of particular interest is a Serbian man Srđa Popović, who formed an organisation called Отпор! (Otpor) which tought “non-violent struggle” in the overthrow of Slobodan Milošević in Serbia during the 1990s, and which has now gone on to inspire a new generation of activists. However, some political commentators like William Engdahl are convinced that Otpor is financed by the United States and has ties to intelligence agenices, also having dubious funding from sources such as the Rand Corporation, the Department of Defence, as well as various fronts such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the US Institute of Peace and the Ford Foundation—all of which have a long history of collaborating with the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA in destabilising movements and usurping popular uprisings, removing their teeth.
Berkeley in the Sixties recaptures the exhilaration and turmoil of the unprecedented student protests that ended up shaping an entire generation in the United States. The Free Speech Movement caught national attention in 1964 when the University of California tried to suppress activists distributing literature and making speeches in an outdoor plaza on campus. The school governor ordered the arrest of students who had occupied the University’s Sproul Hall, leading the largest mass arrest in United States’ history. Police violence also helped politicise and escalate student uprisings, as awareness of the Vietnam War also kept the winds of dissent blowing, albeit as some movements attracted hedonistic individualism and broke away into fancifulness. On the other end was the Black Panther Party, which offered a militant alternative to the civil rights movement. This film recounts these events through 15 former student leaders, who grapple with the meaning of their actions, as their recollections weave with footage from thousands of historical clips and hundreds of interviews from the time. The film offers a reflective and insightful analysis of the successes and failures of the era—from the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings and civil rights sit-ins at the beginning of the decade, through the Free Speech Movement, anti-war protests, the growth of the counter-culture, the Black Panther Party, and the stirrings of the Women’s Movement—confronting the viewer with the questions the 1960s raised and struggled with.
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.
The day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) comes into effect, several thousand soldiers take over half the state of Chiapas, declaring a war against the global corporate power they say rules Mexico. They call themselves the Zapatista National Liberation Army. Zapatista shows this uprising, the story of a peasant rebellion, armed and up against the first world military. It is the story of a movement that transformed Mexican and international political culture.
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.
Goodbye Indonesia investigates one of the world’s most forgotten conflicts—the West Papuan struggle for independence. When the Dutch decolonised their empire after the Second World War, they handed it all to the emergent country of Indonesia—all except the territory of West Papua, which forms one half of New Guinea, the second largest island on Earth. This remarkable landmass split neatly by colonial powers into West Papua and Papua New Guinea, is like few other places in the world…
Migratory Songbird populations are drastically collapsing. Many species have already been driven extinct. But yet, as an endangered species, the birds are still targeted by poachers. Millions of birds are unlawfully slaughtered each year for large sums on the black market. Emptying the Skies explores the wonder of these marvelously tiny globe-flying birds, along with the story of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter, an action group of citizens who have dedicated their lives to directly stop and confront the poachers. They disrupt and destroy trapping, freeing as many birds as possible, changing the world one bird at a time.
Underground is a film about the Weather Underground Organisation—a group founded as a militant faction of the civil rights and anti-war movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The film combines interviews with members of the group after they went underground who explain how they became radicalised amongst the political happenings in the United States at the time, as well as the revolutionary struggles in Cuba, Russia and China, and the history of struggles over Native American rights and labour issues. Also detailed is the group’s analysis of American society, addressing those who have inspired them, and further explaining the reasons behind their militancy, while also introducing the issue of tactics. We see the use of property destruction as a way to bring about change and destabilise the current political order. Underground takes an intimate look at the inner workings of the Weather Underground and their strong internal collective identity, providing a record of how a bunch of middle-class Americans became self-styled militant revolutionaries, raising questions not only about the merits of their struggle, but also about past and future radical actions.