Millions of people around the world are finding work by-the-job online. The “gig economy” is worth more than $5 trillion worldwide, and seemingly growing. But who are these workers? Seduced by the promise of independence, and control over their working hours and income, people around the world that are lured into the gig economy now face the harsh reality of it algorithmically-driven market place: dangerous working conditions, instability, and the precariousness of their work that can stop overnight in the case of deactivation or a bad review. Through committed characters, The Gig is Up shows that the so-called ‘freedom’ that is espoused by this technological economy is only an illusion.
The War at Home: The Untold History of Class War in the United States is a series that traverses the history of the labour movement and state repression in the United States. The series looks at history through the lens of the working class, from the Haymarket massacre in Chicago in 1886 to the Jim Crow spread in Louisiana, to the Triangle Shirtwaist tragedy of 1911, to the violent strikes and police raids of the Great Depression, and beyond. The series makes the connection between the purging of radicals from unions and the decline of union power in the 1920s, towards the 1960s and beyond.
When Dolly Parton sang “9 to 5,” she was doing more than just shining a light on the fate of working women in the United States. Parton was singing the true story of the 9to5 movement that started with a group of secretaries in the early 1970s that wanted change in their workplaces. Their goals were simple: equal pay, fair work, and an end to sexual harassment. As the movement went national, it encapsulated the unique intersection of the women’s movement and the labour movement, as the women worked hard to unionise and press for real change in their workplaces. Featuring interviews with 9to5’s founders, 9to5: The Story of a Movement documents the struggle that changed workplace culture in the United States, and echos today.
AI, or Artificial Intelligence, is spouted as the ability of machines to “think” [sic] at a speed and depth far beyond the capacity of any human. Proponents of these digital technologies claim their systems are used in ways that are beneficial for society. But as we see, the current use of AI isn’t necessarily aligned with the goals of building a better society. There still remain escalating concerns about labour, the future of work, privacy, the surveillance society, and social control—all valid criticisms that go back many decades—while the rivalry for technological supremacy between the United States and China mirrors the dynamics of the cold war. In the Age of AI is an investigation that touches on these areas, providing a platform to ask fundamental questions about unrestrained technological escalation.
In post-industrial United States, the Chinese company Fuyao opens a car-glass factory in an abandoned General Motors plant, hiring thousands of blue-collar American and Chinese workers. Through an an observational format, American Factory presents the two distinct cultures, comparing and contrasting each other, as well as weaving subtle commentary revealed from the workers’ themselves about the nature of manufacturing work; their differing cultural and generational attitudes on labour rights and unionising; as well as observing upper management methods and corporate politics. The film is a collage of self-revealing messages about the cultures of high-tech China and post-industrial United States, shown through the lens of capitalism and the changing status of each country in the global economy.
As one half of the satirical duo, The Rubber Bandits, Blindboy is renown for wearing a plastic bag on his head while dishing out sharp social commentary. In this series, using his unique mix of irreverent commentary, a band of undercover reporters, and playful humour, Blindboy sets out to investigate some of the most important issues of our time.
The Truth About Killer Robots considers several cases where humans have been killed from interactions with automatic machines. From the Volkswagen factory in Germany, to workers in Chinese sweatshops assembling smartphones, to a bomb-carrying police droid in the United States, the film exposes this culture’s fundamental fascination with machines, while illustrating the insatiable expansion of capitalism via automation and machine redundancy. Also explored are ‘self-driving’ cars; surveillance devices; humanless-stores, automated pizzas, robotic supermarkets and hotels; so-called ‘sex’ robots; and vast data gathering machines such as Facebook, which have subverted notions of real human interaction and intimacy. Told through the machine lens of engineers themselves, journalists and philosophers, the film attempts to go beyond the deaths of humans to reveal some of the ways that robots affect this culture in general. Not just by the displacement of labour, but fundamentally as humans of this culture adjust their lives to the rhythms of more and more machines, basic human faculties atrophy, and true connection to the real world and each other becomes more remote and strenuous, at precisely the same time where we need each other the most.
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.
Servant or Slave follows the lives of five Aboriginal women who were stolen from their families and forced into indentured labour to be domestic “servants” for white people during the late 1890s and into 1900s in Australia. With the government exercising complete control over their wages and livelihood, many thousands of Aboriginal children were condemned to a treadmill of abuse, battery, rape, and slavery, only to discover that even today they’ve had to fight for recognition, respect and reparation for their treatment in the past. This film recounts their experiences, as a portrait of courage, strength and the fortitude to pursue justice for the crimes committed against them.
The True Cost is a global investigation into the clothes we wear, the people who make them, and the impact the industry is having on the world. The price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, while the human and environmental costs have grown catastrophically. The True Cost pulls back the curtain on the untold story and asks us to consider, who really pays the price for our clothing?
In Requiem for the American Dream, renowned intellectual figure Noam Chomsky deliberates on the defining characteristics of our time—the colossal concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few and fewer, with the rise of a rapacious individualism and complete collapse of class consciousness. Chomsky does this by discussing some of the key principles that have brought this culture to the pinnacle of historically unprecedented inequality by tracing a half century of policies designed to favour the most wealthy at the expense of the majority, while also looking back on his own life of activism and political participation. The film serves to provide insights into how we got here, and culminates as a reminder that these problems are not inevitable. Once we remember those who came before and those who will come after, we see that we can, and should, fight back.
Plutocracy: Political Repression in the United States is a series of films that comprehensively examine early North American history through the lens of class, to enable a wider critique of the social order in contemporary United States. The series not only documents and exemplifies individual strikes and labour movements throughout the centuries, but also serves to connect the narratives and political lessons of an entire era from a working-class viewpoint, forming a solid base of analysis for class struggle.
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.
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine is not just another celebratory biographical film about the life of a business man that many around the world grieved in 2011. It’s a full rounded critical examination into the fundamentals of a person revered as an iconoclast, a barbed-tongued tyrant, a business sociopath. The real Steve Jobs is revealed like this through candid interviews from those who had close relationships with him at different stages of his life, including the mother of his child, Lisa, that Jobs refused he had, but named a computer after instead. The film also takes us through the evocative essence of the brand of Apple Computers which has captured the population like zombies, and asks the question: What is the legacy of this industry, and the truth of this kind of person that the culture celebrates so much, completely ignoring the darkness?
This film makes use of court documents, diplomatic cables and testimony by business figures themselves, as one case of many, in which corporations and indeed governments side with warlords, as good for business, in the endless pursuit of profit. The story revolves around the civil war of Liberia in the 1990s, with the seeds for exploitation and destruction having been planted a century before by the United States, when formally enslaved peoples in Liberia in-turn set up a society of racism, greed and exploitation, exacerbated by western economic powers. Years later, with the presence of Firestone corporation coming to Liberia to exploit vast plantations of rubber for control over the ‘market,’ the company unfolds as a considerable catalyst for systemic terror, being the forefront for pushing for profits at all costs amongst a brutal civil war; colluding with warlords and corrupt governments in pursuit of this ruthless end. Unfurling as a case study in these methods, this film documents the case that is not so unique but a story amongst many—particularly throughout the so-called third-world—where corporate might and globalisation have extreme consequences…
Who Pays the Price — The Human Cost of Electronics is a short film that seeks to humanise the largely hidden and anonymous global labour force that enables the ubiquitous technoculture, documenting the harsh conditions in which electronics are made and how this really impacts those people’s lives, and the environment. Toxic chemicals, plastics, and sweat-shop working conditions all contribute to the global machine that disseminates digital technologies, hidden in plain sight. Through direct footage of factory workers, interviews with them and analysis of the conditions, Who Pays the Price asks the question of the viewer, and as a call to action to stop the exploitation and toxification of people and the natural world.
In November 2012, yet another incident at a textiles factory in Bangladesh killed at least 112 people. Walmart’s brand shorts were among the clothing found in the charred remains. Walmart blamed its supplier, saying the order had been sub-contracted without its permission. With this example among the many, Made in Bangladesh illustrates the complex organisation of corporate obfuscation—the industries that continue to drive sweat shops, slave labour and child labour under a very clever hall of mirrors…
Fashion Victims looks at the real cost of cheap clothes from the conditions of sweat shops in Bangladesh. On 24th April, 2013 more than a thousand people were killed when an eight storey building collapsed in the heart of Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka. The collapse of Rana Plaza turned the world’s attention to the shocking conditions workers in the country’s clothing industry are forced to endure. In recent years, Australian companies have flooded into Bangladesh to take advantage of lax labour laws and the lowest wages in the world, paid to the predominantly young, female workers in the factories.
A behind the scenes look into what happens when you buy from the world’s biggest online retailer: Amazon. Through testimonials of ex-employees and an undercover employee with a camera, the tough conditions for workers are revealed. The film exposes the immense pressure the workers go through, such as racing a computerised clock every step of their shift, and having to walk up to 11 miles a day inside the distribution centres. As more people around the world turn to online shopping with a click of a button, staff members working at Amazon are put under mental and physical stress to deliver out of sight, out of mind.
For more then twenty years, many hundreds of tons of electronic waste—or e-waste—from all around the world has been transported to an infamous Chinese town called Fengjang, just south of Shanghai, for disposal and so-called ‘recycling.’ Around 50,000 migrant workers constitute part of the massive workforce necessary to dispose of e-waste, with the downcycling component of the operations involving cutting, splitting, and salvage—most-often with rudimentary equipment. The workers toil endlessly to process almost 2 million tons of garbage every year, bearing incredible precariousness, and even putting in danger their own health due to the simply unacceptable working conditions and also the toxic characteristics of the metals, chemicals and materials they’re handling. As the recognisable heaps of waste continue to pile up, Heavy Metal provides a moving image of a worldwide consumer society and the stark direct impacts of an ‘invisible’ waste.
Human Resources — Social Engineering in the 20th Century is about the rise of mechanistic philosophy and the exploitation of human beings under modern hierarchical systems. The film captures how humans are regarded as a resource by corporations—something to be exploited for pecuniary gain—by following the history of psychological experiments in behaviour modification, conditioning and mind control; applying the outcomes to modern day establishment experiments such as institutionalised education, and social engineering by way of things like television…
Every spring in China, 130 million migrant workers exit the cities and travel back to their home villages for the New Year’s holiday. This exodus is the world’s largest human migration, a spectacle that demonstrates the world of a rapacious acculturating industrialism against the life of a rural past. Last Train Home follows the lives of one family who have embarked on the journey of hard labour and home again for almost two decades. One story of many of the human cost of China’s ascendence as an economic superpower.
Oil Rocks—otherwise known as Neft Daşları—is one of the first and largest offshore oil-platforms ever built. The location is a vast industrial city in the middle of the Caspian Sea, ordered by the Stalin regime in 1949. 60 years on, Oil Rocks is still operational and the first western film crew in its history receives access. The result is this film which documents 200 kilometers of bridges, thousands of oil workers, hundreds of platforms, up to nine-story buildings, a park and a sports field—nothing less then an oil-rig ‘Atlantis.’ By combining archive footage from the Soviet era and interviews with workers, this film tells the story of the oil fields and the extremely hard work by those involved to this day.
Bananas!* documents the legal battle of banana plantation workers in Nicaragua against the Dole Food Company over cases of sterility caused by the pesticide DBCP. The chemical, despite being banned, was knowingly sprayed on crops and workers. The result is the same old battle with corporate power as the film unpacks the issues of the case and the lives of the workers through the local lawyer Juan Dominguez. Dominguez bridges the gap between the rapacious North American company and the South American workers who were not told about or protected from the pesticide, to make a claim against one of the largest corporations in the world for justice for its workers.
Coca Cola is one of the most visible brands in the world, but there’s one part of the operations the corporation doesn’t want you to see. Colombia is the trade-union-murder-capital of the world. Since 2002, more than 470 workers’ leaders have been brutally killed, usually by paramilitaries hired by private companies intent on crushing the unions. Amongst the top unscrupulous corporate brands is Coca Cola…
Filmed in Thailand and the Philippines in July 2007, Squeezed tells the story of how free trade agreements and globalisation are changing the lives of millions of people living in the Asia-Pacific region with APEC. Featuring interviews with farmers, workers and slum-dwellers, the film travels across the landscapes of Asia, from the lush rice paddies of Thailand to squatter settlements perched on a rubbish dump in urban Manila. Documenting these contrasts and contradictions, Squeezed accounts the impact of globalisation…
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.’
In Mexico, ‘maquiladoras’ is a word used to describe the sort of factories that have become commonplace with globalisation—mass assembly and manufacturing plants primarily staffed by women for low wage and long hours in unsafe and toxic conditions. Tijuana has attracted so many such factories that it has gained the nickname Maquilapolis. Delving into the landscape of this, this film asks the question: What is the human price of globalisation? Maquilapolis brings American and Mexican-American filmmakers together with Tijuana factory workers and community organisers to answer that question and tell the story of globalisation through the eyes and voices of the workers themselves. The result is a film to inform and inspire, as each day the workers confront labor violations, environmental devastation and urban chaos…
The Take documents the story of workers in Buenos Aires, Argentina who reclaim control of a closed auto-plant where they once worked and turn it into a worker cooperative. The factory closed as a result of the economic policies of the government under the watchful eye of the IMF. While in bankruptcy protection, the company appeared to be selling off property and inventory to pay creditors — a move which further reduced the chances of the facility returning to production. Though as the movement gains strength, having started with a garment factory several years earlier, the factory workers wade through courts and the legislative system, finally establishing their own control and winning the right to operate it themselves, as a cooperative…
In the age of the brand, logos are everywhere. But why do some of the world’s best-known brands find themselves at the end of spray paint cans and the targets of anti-corporate campaigns? No Logo, based on the best-selling book by Canadian journalist and activist Naomi Klein, reveals the reasons behind the backlash against the increasing economic and cultural reach of multinational companies. Analysing how brands like Nike, The Gap, and Tommy Hilfiger became revered symbols worldwide, Klein argues that globalisation is a process whereby corporations discovered that profits lay not in making products (outsourced to low-wage workers in developing countries), but in creating branded identities people adopt in their lifestyles. Using hundreds of media examples, No Logo shows how the commercial takeover of public space, the restriction of ‘choice’, and replacement of real jobs with temporary work — the dynamics of corporate globalisation — impact everyone, everywhere…
Spring of 1968 in Memphis Tennessee marked the peak of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. At the River I Stand sets out to reconstruct the eventful months leading up to this period by looking at what started as a strike by sanitation workers which quickly soared into a national conflagration. The film disentangles the complex historical forces that came together for the struggle as well the inevitability of tragedy at the death of many, including Martin Luther King. At the River I Stand brings into sharp relief issues that have only become more urgent in the intervening years: the connection between economic and civil rights; debates over strategies for change, and the questions of effectiveness of pacifist tactics for social change; the demand for full inclusion of African Americans in life; as well as the pressing fight for dignity for all working people…
Through a series of portraits that reach across different class, ethnic and generational experiences, The Double Burden speaks to the diversity of pains and pleasures of working motherhood. What is it like to grow up in a family where mothers have always worked outside the home? Through the lives of three families—one Mexican-American, one Polish-American, and one African-American—each with three generations of women who worked outside the home while also raising families, this film aims to instil tremendous respect for the accomplishments of women and for women of different races, social classes and life-styles through the generations, against social odds, pressures and expectations.
On 1 May 1946, under occupation and wage slavery by the white man, 800 Aboriginal workers walked off sheep stations in the north-west of Western Australia, marking the beginning of a carefully organised strike that was to last for at least three years, and never officially ended. The strike was a demand for basic freedoms and for better wages considering the imposed conditions. A fight that sadly continues to this day, speaking to the truth of a country still occupied and brutally colonised, land that was never ceded.
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…
Rocking The Foundations recounts the history of the Green Bans introduced by the New South Wales Builders Labourers Federation in the 1970s which were a series of trade union strikes imposed on developers who wanted to demolish heritage buildings and sites of environmental significance in NSW. The workers saved bushland, trees, and numerous historical buildings which, to this day, remain a powerful symbol of how successful environmental campaigns and effective and honest trade unions can be run…
Made over five years, with contributions from hundreds of women and over 200 Australian films, For Love or Money is a pictorial account of women’s history in Australia over the past decades. The film chronicles the cycles of women’s gains and losses as they are moved in and out of the workforce according to demands of the age, revealing how women’s unpaid and voluntary work over the years has kept and continues to keep an entire system running smoothly, both in peacetime and in war. In this culture, women do the work that is never paid or still not even recognised as real work. This film shows how this system determines the kinds of jobs women do in the paid workforce—the low-paid, low-status jobs—and how women have fought and organised for equality and wage justice for over a century. For Love or Money remains relevant today as women continue the unfinished campaigns for equal pay, maternity leave and childcare, and still carry the major responsibility for caring and nurturing in the culture of individualism.
Along the way to winning an eight-hour workday and fair wages in the early 20th century, the Wobblies were one of the few unions to be racially and sexually integrated and often met with imprisonment, violence, and the privations of prolonged strikes. The Wobblies airs a provocative look at the forgotten American history of this most radical of unions, screening the unforgettable and still-fiery voices of Wobbly members — lumberjacks, migratory workers, and silk weavers — in their 70s, 80s, and 90s.
Controlling Interest is one of the first documentary films to provide a critical analysis on the growth of multinational corporations, and their impacts on people and the environment. Upon its release, Controlling Interest quickly became a standard audio-visual text for those concerned about the growing impact of multinational corporations, examining how the ever-increasing concentration of money and power affects employment in the United States, shapes patterns of development across the world, and influences foreign policy. This is the film that helped kick-off the anti-globalisation movement. Remarkably candid interviews with business executives provide a rare glimpse of the reasoning behind corporate global strategy, and the never-ending search for resources, ever-cheaper labour, and the commodification of life. The film documents the impact of corporate decisions on people around the world, including how “freedom” has come increasingly to mean the freedom of global corporations to operate without restriction. Some of the case studies include Massachusetts’ declining machine tool industry, Brazil’s “economic miracle,” and Chile before and after the 1973 coup.