Physician and mother of two Dr. Delaney Ruston became interested in how much screen time is too much when her preteen started begging for a smartphone. Ruston saw other parents equally confused on how to balance technology with a young developing mind, so she decided to delve into the science behind screen time to understand how it affects young people’s minds and development. Through personal stories and input from leading researchers, the result is Screenagers, a film that sheds light on the impact screen time is having on kids; exploring how learning, playing, and socialising online effects teens’ developing attention span, fragile self-esteem, and moral instincts. Screenagers examines the real risks of failing in school, social isolation, and digital addiction. It also explores solutions to handle screen time and provides parents with tools to help young people develop self-control and find balance in their digital lives, rather than rapid-fire thumbs and a six-second attention span.
The Social Dilemma brings together former product directors and designers of Facebook, Google, Instagram, Pintrest, Twitter, and so on, to reflect on their creations and face questions about the age of addiction, information manipulation, and algorithmic social control they’ve ushered in. The creators speak openly about how they themselves took part in this co-optation of society, either naively or with malignant indifference, by designing websites in such a way to influence and manipulate billions of people for corporate interests by using deep psychological and addictive triggers in the human mind. Detailed explanations about how this can play out in the real world are illustrated through dramatisations, which are also expanded upon by experts in psychology, technology, and social studies. The result is a sobering call for emergency damage control, to undo the massive harm that technology companies have unleashed on society unrestrained for the past several decades, at a time of rapid social unravelling.
A 37-year old mum goes undercover as an 11-year old girl to expose the dangers facing kids on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Kik. Left unsupervised, young children can be exposed to online predators, grooming, and psychological abuse within minutes. In 2018 alone, the filmmakers of this project alerted the FBI to 99 child predators. In 2019 that number is more than 300 and counting. Each of these cases represents a real child experiencing real harm, and the challenge of this short film is to help parents and schools understand this new reality, while also acting to bring online predators, groomers, and paedophiles to justice.
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.
Over 18: The Question is Not Enough is a broad examination of modern pornography. For just a generation ago, porn was on the fringe in glossy magazines. Today, porn is mainstream and even celebrated. But as softcore imagery migrated into popular culture through advertising and became normalised, today’s mainstream porn is hardcore and explicit in order to distinguish itself. Now too, with the pervasiveness of the Internet, graphic video is also increasingly exposed to young people. Over 18 tells the story of Joseph, a 13-year-old boy who is recovering from a porn addiction that he fell into when he was just 9 years old—a case that is not unexceptional. By exploring what today’s mainstream porn is and how it captures people through candid interviews with porn producers and ex-porn stars themselves, Over 18 also provides research from academics, and life experience from recovering addicts, to take aim at the content of modern pornography and its existence as an industry.
Generation Wealth is a visual history of the materialistic, image, and celebrity-obsessed culture, explored through the work of photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield. Part historical essay, part autobiographical, Greenfield puts the pieces of her life’s work together to reveal the pathologies that have created the richest and most unequal society the world has ever seen. Spanning consumerism, beauty, gender, body commodification, aging, and sex, Generation Wealth unpacks the global boom-bust economy, the corrupt American Dream and the human costs of capitalism, narcissism and greed.
YouTube, owned by Google, has become one of the most powerful online media platforms in the world, fast to be replacing the viewership of television with over 30 billion hours watched per month in 2017. Young people flock to the platform in the hopes of fame and fortune, which comes for a select few, but not all, hence the allure to ‘make it.’ YouTube celebrities are now mainstream celebrities. The result is troves competing to live their lives as monetised open-wounds for the corporate platform, constantly pleading for subscribers, attention and engagement, all at the hands of Google, its secret algorithms, and the screen culture of spectacle, pornography, and targeted advertising. On both sides of the screen, the treadmill is all about keeping the ad dollars constantly rolling. YouTube, YouTubers and You offers a glimpse into this new media and advertising world, pondering how this culture may continue to undermine our future media and informational landscape. What sort of people and world is this culture creating and perpetuating?
We live in a world of screens. The average adult spends the majority of their waking hours in front of some sort of screen or device. We’re enthralled, we’re addicted to these machines. How did we get here? Who benefits? What are the cumulative impacts on people, society and the environment? What may come next if this culture is left unchecked, to its end trajectory, and is that what we want? Stare Into The Lights My Pretties investigates these questions with an urge to return to the real physical world, to form a critical view of technological escalation driven rapacious and pervasive corporate interest. Covering themes of addiction, privacy, surveillance, information manipulation, behaviour modification and social control, the film lays the foundations as to why we may feel like we’re sleeprunning into some dystopian nightmare with the machines at the helm. Because we are, if we don’t seriously avert our eyes to stop this culture from destroying what is left of the real world.
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 Porn Factor takes viewers on a journey of discovery, from regional and urban Australia to the centre of the international porn industry in Los Angeles and back. Through candid interviews with young people, pornstars, and other industry professionals, The Porn Factor explores how pornography is shaping young people’s sexual expectations and experiences. Readily available and aggressively marketed online, exposure to hardcore pornography is now mainstream. The classroom or parent talk is now no match for porn—with its endless array of gyrating bodies, offering a quick, easy and anonymous sexual charge. Porn has become the default sexuality educator for young people growing up online. It brings into compelling focus the 21st century challenges faced by parents, schools and others as they seek to equip young people for a sexuality that is safe, respectful and fully consenting.
The Illusionists examines how global advertising firms, mass media, and the beauty, fashion, and cosmetic-surgery industries have together colonised the way people all around the world define beauty and see themselves. Taking us from Harvard to the halls of the Louvre, from a cosmetic surgeon’s office in Beirut to the heart of Tokyo’s Electric Town, The Illusionists shows how these industries saturate our lives with narrow, Westernised, consumer-driven images of so-called beauty that show little to no respect for biological realities or cultural differences. Featuring voices from prominent sociologists, magazine editors, scientists, artists, and activists, The Illusionists documents a truly global phenomenon, with hegemonic results.
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 Empathy Gap investigates how dominant culture bombards young men with sexist and misogynistic messages and argues that these messages not only devalue women but also undercut men’s innate capacity for caring and empathy. The film looks closely at the ways these messages short-circuit men’s ability to empathize with women, respect them as equals, and take feminism seriously, drawing parallels between sexism and racism, spelling out how each is rooted in cultural norms that discourage empathy, and shows how men who break with these norms live happier and healthier lives.
Growing Up Trans explores how queer theory, now in the mainstream, has come to children—some younger than six years old. For just a generation ago, it was considered only adults who wished to perform opposite gender stereotypes, physically changing their bodies or appearance with drugs, hormones and invasive surgery; but today, many young children are seeking serious and new medical or chemical interventions, at younger and younger ages, in a culture of rampant individualism and post-modernism. Told from the perspective of parents, doctors, but perhaps most revealing of all, the kids themselves, Growing Up Trans reveals a sharp narrative that speaks to the choices and struggles of a new generation of young people, while also illustrating the dynamics of the larger post-modern culture and how its profoundly influenced their lives, bodies, and indeed the existential self.
Sugar Coated investigates a once secret public relations campaign, dating back to the 1970s, where the sugar industry deflected threats to its multi-billion dollar empire from scientific research emerging implicating processed sugar with adverse health effects. In order to continue sweetening the world’s food supply, thus securing continued profits, the sugar industry turned to the very same deceptions and tactics lifted from the tobacco industry. Using big sugar’s own internal documents on this strategy, Sugar Coated reveals the well-oiled tricks of the trade to confuse the public about what is really driving the global pandemic of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Will we be fooled again?
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.
Traversing the judgement placed on women who bottle-feed their babies, to the stigma surrounding mothers who breast-feed their toddlers, and the stigma of breast-feeding in public, the polarised topic surrounding breast-feeding sets off an emotional and personal debate in a highly eroticised culture, where it is hard for some to remember that breasts have a purpose that is not selling cars, beer, and sex. Milk investigates the overarching themes surrounding the commercialisation of infant feeding and its effects on child mortality, as well as the challenges it presents to adequate health worker training and the judgement placed on women regardless of how they choose to feed their babies. Milk also shows the natural world juxtaposed to the industrialised way in which we receive a new life into this world. Milk follows stories of mothers from different cultures spanning 11 countries, as it reveals the universal issues and challenges facing motherhood and birth today.
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?
Social media networks purport the ability to interact with culture—talking directly to artists, celebrities, movies, brands, and even one another—in ways never before possible. But is this real empowerment? Or do marketing companies still hold the upper hand, as before? Generation Like explores how the perennial quest for identity and connection is usurped in the pervasive game of cat-and-mouse by vast corporate power in the extensive machine for consumerism that is now the online environment. The audience becomes the marketer; buzz is subtly controlled and manipulated by and from real-time behavioural insights; and the content generated is sold back to the audience in the name of participation. But does the audience even think they’re being used? Do they care? Or does the perceived chance to be the ‘next big star’ make it all worth it?
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…
Using undercover filming, Sex and Survival in Madagascar exposes the booming child sex trade of the 21st Century. In the hub of Madagascar, one of the world’s poorest countries, prostitution is rampant and seen as an unavoidable means of survival. The film shows the complicity and complacency of authorities that do not act to stop this terror, and so the acts of resistance against sex slavery are carried out by the children themselves.
InRealLife asks: What exactly is the Internet and what is it doing to our children? Taking us on a journey ranging from the bedrooms of British teenagers to the explosive world of Silicon Valley, filmmaker Beeban Kidron suggests that rather than the promise of free and open connectivity, young people are increasingly ensnared in a commercial world. And as this is explained, InRealLife asks if we can afford to stand by while our children, trapped in their 24/7 connectivity, are being outsourced to the web.
Over the past three decades, obesity rates in the United States have more than doubled for children and tripled for adolescents, and a startling 70% of adults are now obese or overweight. The result has been a widening epidemic of obesity-related health problems. But while discussions about this crisis tend to focus solely on the need for individual responsibility and more exercise, Feeding Frenzy turns its focus squarely on the responsibility of the processed food industry and the outmoded government policies it benefits from. It lays bare how government subsidies designed to feed the hungry during the Great Depression have enabled the food industry to flood the market with a rising tide of cheap, addictive, high calorie food products, and offers an engrossing look at the tactics of the multi billion-dollar advertising industry that makes sure that everyone keeps consuming.
An ex-pornstar, a 12 year old girl, and a 22 year old who yearns for the ‘normal’ genitals as seen in porn movies, are just some of whom are chronicled in Sexy Baby to draw together how the current relentless culture of pornography, social media and popular culture are deeply and profoundly affecting the lives women and girls. Based on intimate and candid conversations with kids in middle school classrooms, suburban shopping malls, nightclubs, college dorms, and high school house parties, the film chronicles trends among small town and big city kids—the pervasive culture affects everyone, everywhere. Most youngsters know someone who has emailed or texted a naked photo of themselves. Many kids have accidentally or intentionally had their first introduction to sex be via hardcore pornography online. Facebook has created an arena where kids compete to be “liked” and constantly worry about what image to portray. Much of what was once private is now made public. The list goes on. Sexy Baby is a powerful indictment of the Internet age and the hyper-sexualised culture affecting women and girls everywhere, as well as an insight into the struggle of parents navigating this new culture, wanting what is best for their kids and the generations to come.
From tiny tots strutting bikini-clad bodies in beauty pageants to companies marketing itty-bitty thongs and padded bras directly to 9-year olds; images of ever-younger sexualised girls pervasively saturate the media landscape. Add to that: ever-younger boys with 24-7 access to hard-core internet porn and the situation permeates every aspect of their lives—from skate parks to the school bus. By the time they’re eighteen, 80 percent of boys are watching porn online. Then add to that smart phones and social networking websites, and kids can not only consume X-rated images, but can now also produce them. Sexting has become a Grade 7 right of passage. Sext Up Kids exposes how growing up in a hyper-sexualized culture hurts everyone. Teens and pre-teens show and tell what they are doing and why they are doing it. Psychologists and social researchers reveal startling new evidence, tracking how the pressure to be sexy is changing teen and sexual behaviour in alarming ways. Parents and educators struggle to help kids navigate puberty in a world where the line between pop culture and porn culture is increasingly blurred. For every parent who thinks, “that’s not my son or daughter,” Sext Up Kids is your wake up call.
In India, China, and many other parts of the world today, girls are killed, aborted and abandoned simply because they are girls. The United Nations estimates as many as 200 million girls are missing in the world today because of this. Then, girls who survive infancy are often subject to neglect, and many grow up to face extreme violence and even death at the hands of their own husbands or other family members. The war against girls is rooted in centuries-old tradition and sustained by deeply ingrained cultural dynamics which, in combination with government policies, accelerate the oppression of women and girls. Shot on location in India and China, It’s a Girl reveals these issues through the stories of abandoned and trafficked girls, of women who suffer extreme dowry-related violence, of brave mothers fighting to save their daughters’ lives, and of other mothers who would kill for a son. Global experts and grassroots activists put the stories in context and advocate different paths towards change, while collectively lamenting the lack of any truly effective action against injustice.
The huge and complex problems of today often instil doubt and fear that everything is futile. Yet by analysing how the power of media, schooling and parenting have moulded us, #ReGENERATION helps us start to comprehend what we must change—both as a generation and as a culture. We see how the average family spends at least four hours a day in front of the TV. Internet and video games are not included in this figure. So guess what is shaping us? This film examines the corporate forces that deeply influence all of us, but particularly the young, providing insights into how the politics of apathy is perpetuated, and how we can turn this around into activism, if and when we are willing.
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.
Girl Model offers a glimpse into the hall of mirrors that is the modelling world as it interfaces with other industries and other countries. The film follows Ashley—a deeply ambivalent former-model who is now a scout and scours the Siberian countryside looking for ‘fresh faces’ to send to the Japanese market; and one of her ‘discoveries,’ Nadya, a thirteen year-old plucked from the Siberian countryside and dropped into the centre of Tokyo with promises of a profitable career. What entails is the opening of a can of worms that isn’t easily solved in one sitting—a thriving and curiously sinister modelling industry that spans the globe, luring everywhere with pretences of wonder, success and riches. But the realities are harsh. The fashion industry can look glamorous from the outside, but its insides are, at the very least, deceptive and sinister; and the myths run deeply entrenched in the culture, constantly promulgating new, young recruits. This ‘meat market,’ a prelude to sex trafficking, is creepy, ugly, and preys on the young and vulnerable. Can the spell be broken?
How does the military train the solider of tomorrow? Video games. The most popular games are those that replicate as close as possible the war events as seen on the news. Such games now far outpace the biggest Hollywood blockbuster movies, popular music, and best-selling books, combined. What does this complete immersion in high-tech war mean for our political culture? As well as those directly affected by state violence? What does it mean when the technological sophistication of modern militarism become forms of mass entertainment? Returning Fire profiles three artists and activists that decided these questions needed to be answered. We see how Anne-Marie Schleiner, Wafaa Bilal, and Joseph Delappe moved dissent from the streets to the screens, infiltrating war games in an attempt to break their hypnotic spell. The results ask all of us—gamers and non-gamers alike—to think critically about what it means when drones and remote warfare become computer games and visa versa. Can we reflect on our capacity to empathise with people directly affected by the trauma of real war?
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.
One generation from now, most people in the United States will have spent more time in the virtual world than in the natural world. New media technologies have changed lives in countless ways. Streams of information now appears in a click. Overseas friends are contactable in an instant. Engulfing video games and streams of endless entertainment to stimulate the senses, dazzle the mind and pander to the acculturated desire to be in control. Even grandma loves Wii. But what are people missing when they’re behind screens? How is it already impacting our children, our society, and the planet? At a time when people are at screens more than they are outside, Play Again explores the challenge in dealing with the addiction and returning to the real world…
Filmed over three years in the war-zone of northern Uganda, Children of War follows a group of former child soldiers as they escape the battlefield, enter a rehabilitation centre, and undergo a process of trauma recovery and emotional healing. Having been abducted from their homes and schools, and forced to become fighters by the Lord’s Resistance Army—a militia led by self-proclaimed prophet and warlord Joseph Kony—the children struggle to confront and break through years of captivity, extreme religious indoctrination, and participation in war crimes with the help of a team of trauma counsellors. As fearless allies guide the children into new lives, Children of War illuminates a powerful and cathartic story of forgiveness and hope in the aftermath of horrific war.
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…
The infertility industry in the United States has grown to a multi-billion dollar business, and its main commodity is human eggs. Young women all over the world are bombarded by advertising—on college campus bulletin boards, social media, online classifieds—offering up to $100,000 for their donated eggs, to “help make someone’s dream come true.” But who is this egg donor? Is she treated justly? What are the implications to her health? Eggsploitation spotlights the booming business of human-egg extraction told through the stories of women who became involved and whose lives have changed forever after undergoing the procedure. Their accounts provide a cautionary tale to all women who are considering egg donation for the purpose of in-vitro fertilisation or embryonic stem cell research.
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.
The Dark Side Of Chocolate follows a team of investigative reporters into Africa where human trafficking and child labour fuel the chocolate industry worldwide. The film travels to Mali where hidden footage reveals the trafficking of small children to the cocoa fields in the neighbouring Ivory Coast and elsewhere. What is happening behind the sweet imagery of the chocolate industry?
Filmmaker Darryl Roberts goes on a five year journey to examine this culture’s burgeoning obsession with physical beauty and perfection, showing how increasingly unattainable images contribute to the rise in low self-esteem, body dismorphia, and eating disorders for young women and girls who also happen to be the beauty industry’s largest consumers. In almost 40,000 media messages a year, young people are being told that unless you look like supermodels and rock stars, you’re not good enough for anyone. In 2004 alone, people across the United States spent $12.4 billion on cosmetic surgery. America the Beautiful explores why these people are spending so much money to cover up their discontent that is mainly driven by advertising. What are the true costs of this culture’s obsession with youth, plastic notions of beauty, and impossibly slender physiques? Who actually benefits from this high-priced journey towards a fake ideal, and does it justify an entire nation’s psychosis?
By planting a variety of fake celebrity-related stories in the UK media and having tabloid newspapers accept them without corroboration or evidence, Starsuckers navigates through the shams and deceit involved in creating a pernicious celebrity culture, uncovering the real reasons behind the addiction to fame and the corporations and individuals who profit from it.
Child Sex Trade USA travels through the United States to reveal the workings of a pervasive child sex trade, discovering that it is just as easy to ‘buy a child’ in the US as it is in Asia. 300,000 American children have been forced in to the sex industry, as of 2009, in the United States alone. This film presents a much needed analysis of the shocking cultural values that surround child abuse, paedophilia, human trafficking and prostitution; asking big questions of how, why, and what to do about it…