In March 1971, eight ordinary citizens broke into an FBI office in Pennsylvania, took hundreds of secret documents out, and mailed them to newspapers across the country to share them with the public. The group, calling themselves The Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI, undertook the actions at a time where suspicions about systemic abuse and manipulation of social and political movements by intelligence agencies were running high in the context of the Vietnam war and 1960s counter-culture. In doing so, these citizens uncovered the FBI’s vast and illegal regimes, leading to insights about mass surveillance, intimidation, entrapment, and the use of provocateurs and informers for manipulation, and sabotage. Much of this would later go on to be known as part of a covert program called COINTELPRO that was run directly by J. Edgar Hoover to destroy social change movements—a history that is imperative to understand in the context of today, where state repression of social change movements continues.
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.
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.
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.
How did two childhood friends from Midland, Texas end up arrested on terrorism charges at the 2008 Republican National Convention? Better This World follows the journey of David McKay and Bradley Crowder from activist beginners to accused domestic terrorists with a particular focus on the relationship they develop with an FBI informant named Brandon Darby in six months leading up to their arrests. Weaving through a story of entrapment, idealism, political struggle and ultimate betrayal, Better This World winds up at questions of the core machinery of the justice system and its impact on civil liberties and political dissent in the modern “post-9/11 world.”
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…
Through a secret program called the Counter Intelligence Program or ‘COINTELPRO’, the United States government set out to “disrupt dissident political organisations using infiltration, psychological warfare, harassment through the legal system and extralegal force and violence”. Groups such as the Black Panther Party and others throughout the civil rights movement were targets of the program. COINTELPRO — The FBI’s War On Black America establishes a historical perspective on the measures initiated by the FBI which aimed to discredit black political figures and forces of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Combining declassified documents, interviews, rare footage and exhaustive research, it investigates the government’s role in the assassinations of Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, and Martin Luther King…
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.
Filmed over 3 years, Complicit is an undercover investigation into the lives and conditions of workers that assemble iPhones, tablets, and other electronics in factories such as Foxconn in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, China. The film reveals the global economy’s factory floors, showing the conditions under which China’s youth have migrated by the millions in search of the espoused “better life” working for big corporations. But the reality is working long hours with toxic chemicals that cause many cumulative detrimental health conditions, including cancers. As such, a focal point of the story is Yi Yeting, who takes his fight against the global electronic industry from his hospital bed to the international stage. While battling his own work-induced leukemia, Yi Yeting teaches himself labour law in order to prepare a legal challenge against his former employers. As the struggle to defend the lives of millions of Chinese people from becoming terminally ill from work necessitates confrontation with some of the world’s largest corporations, including Apple and Samsung, Complicit turns to become a powerful portrait of courage and resistance against screens and rapacious corporate power in a toxic culture.
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.
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…
Travelling across North America, DamNation investigates the growing change in national attitude from strange pride in big dams as domineering engineering projects, to the growing truthful awareness that dams have always been the great killers of rivers, wildlife, the salmon, the forests, coastlines, watersheds. Life is bound to water and health of rivers, and now, dam removal in many forms—including Monkey Wrenching—is reclaiming that life and spreading. Where dams come down, rivers come back, allowing the salmon to return after decades of being concreted out. By making firsthand unexpected discoveries moving through rivers and the landscapes altered by dams, DamNation presents a much-needed metamorphosis in values, from conquest of the natural world to knowing ourselves as part of nature; to respect, and be humbled. With over two million dams in North America alone—75,000 of them over six feet tall—there’s much work to be done. Let’s get to it.
Damocracy travels from the deepest corners of the vast Amazon rainforest in Brazil to the mountains and plains of fertile upper Mesopotamia in south east Turkey, to expose the myth that large-scale dams, as clean energy, are a solution to climate change. The film records the priceless cultural and natural heritage the world will lose in the Amazon and Mesopotamia if two planned large-scale dams are built—the Belo Monte dam in Brazil, and the Ilisu dam in Turkey. Damocracy documents the story of resistance by the thousands of people who will be displaced if the two projects go ahead, and issues a call to the world to support this fight to save the last rivers from industrial civilisation…
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.
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.
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.
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 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?
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.
Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday; or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons; or that dancing around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”? Why are these “solutions” not sufficient? But most importantly, what can be done instead to actually stop the murder of the planet?
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…
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.
How to Start a Revolution is a profile of Nobel Peace Prize nominee and political theorist Gene Sharp, who is described as one of the world’s foremost scholars on nonviolent revolution. The film profiles Sharp and his ideas, as well as their influence on popular uprisings around the world. There is particular focus on Sharp’s key text From Dictatorship to Democracy, which has been translated by activists into more than 30 languages, and used in revolutions from Serbia and Ukraine, to Egypt and Syria. Quiet and unassuming, a softly spoken Sharp describes how his 198 methods of nonviolent action have spread from his tiny Boston office to inspire and inform uprisings across the globe.
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…
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.
The United States heralded many grandiose promises of freedom and equal rights as they invaded Iraq. But still years on from the invasion, the reality of everyday life for women inside Iraq is of course a different story. To make this film, two Iraqi women risk their lives to spend three months travelling all over the country with a camera to record the lives and experiences of women they meet. Iraq — The Women’s Story provides a compelling account of a life inside Iraq that is never seen on news bulletins…
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…
Filmed over 18 months, Lessons in Dissent is a kaleidoscopic portrait of a new generation of Hong Kong democracy activists. 18-year-old Joshua Wong dedicates himself to stopping the introduction of National Education. His campaign begins to snowball when an interview goes viral on social media. With the new school year fast approaching, a showdown with the government seems inevitable. So with a microphone in hand, and still in his school uniform, he takes to the streets to protest, along with 120,000 people in support. Meanwhile, former classmate Ma Jai fights against political oppression on the streets and in the courts. Having dropped out of school and dedicated himself to the movement, he endures the persecution suffered by those not lucky enough to be protected by the glare of the media. Lessons in Dissent catapults the viewer on to the streets of Hong Kong, confronting the viewer with the country’s rising energy of dissent.
The 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.
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.
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).
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…
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.
Stop the Flows is a media project in progress to document resistance movements around the world that are working towards stopping the flows of oil and gas, minerals and other natural ‘resource’ extraction from within their communities, territories and landbases; as well as stopping the flow of the tremendous amounts of wealth generated from these destructive activities. This series aims to support and capture the many forms of organising, direct-action, protest and resistance movements throughout the world working to end mining, the oil economy, nuclear power and more…
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.
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…
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?
1966, United States. A new revolutionary culture was emerging and it sought to overthrow the corrupt systems of power waging the invasion of Vietnam, amongst the struggle for equality and civil rights at home. Beginning with armed citizens’ patrols to keep police accountable and challenge police brutality in Oakland California, The Black Panther Party put itself at the vanguard for social change, expanding in 1969 to community social programs, including free breakfast for school kids and community health clinics. This lead the FBI to call the movement “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country,” and start an extensive government program called COINTELPRO to surveil, infiltrate, perjure, harass, discredit, destabilise and disintegrate the movement. This film chronicles the story arc of the Black Panthers successes and failures, through the voices of the people who were actually there: police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors, and the Black Panthers themselves.