Sieged: The Press Vs Denialism

As Brazil’s death toll surpasses a quarter of a million, President Jair Bolsonaro tells Brazilians to “stop whining.” Leading his country through a global pandemic with denialism, propaganda and unchecked bravado, he has brought his country to the edge of disaster.

This immersive documentary rolls back the clock to when the pandemic first started, telling the story of the frontline journalists who were desperate to warn the country of an impending public health disaster. Sieged holds up an uncanny mirror to the events in the US and the rest of the world, as Brazilians see their health ministers fired and undermined, racially motived killings proliferate, and journalists disempowered and blamed every step of the way with allegations of reporting fake news. Elsewhere we see hospitals at breaking point and other essential service workers pushed to the edge, as families lose their loved ones in droves.

This documentary takes viewers behind the scenes, into the newsrooms, behind the cameras and into the press scrums for a deeper view of the political turmoil and corruption brought to light as COVID-19 hit Brazil.

Climate Trailblazers: Reimagining Our Future

Exciting technologies have emerged, setting the gears in motion for a new green industrial revolution.

Climate Trailbazers; Reimagining Our Future examines the new technologies and practices that decouple social and economic growth from carbon emissions showcasing innovations across the world that provide new and greener ways of producing energy, materials and food.

These new technologies, if adopted at scale, could move the needle on climate change.

The new tech and business models featured also prove that sustainability can be profitable, while consumers and whole industries alike can play their part in slowing – and reversing – environmental damage and creating a more sustainable future for generations to come.

Climate Trailblazers provides a message of hope for those who care about sustainability, and our planet, in what is often characterised as an unavoidable catastrophe.

The Face of Anonymous

In the late Spring 2020—in the midst of coronavirus pandemic, Black Lives Matter, and U.S. presidential nomination coverage—mainstream media outlets reported that the anarchic “hacktivist” network Anonymous was back after several years of relative quiet.  “We will be exposing your many crimes to the world,” a masked messenger told the Minneapolis police department in a clip that went viral, captivating millions of young viewers. “We are legion. Expect us.”

This pivotal moment is the perfect time to unveil The Face of Anonymous, a verité journey into the world of Commander X, one of the most iconic, divisive, and outspoken figures in the history of the international online movement. Now living in exile in Mexico, Commander X is ready to tell his own remarkable story and to reveal not just the How but the Why of Anon’s modus operandi.

Christopher Mark Doyon, aka Commander X, personifies the trajectory of American activism “from the streets, to the Internet, and then back to the streets,” says journalist and author David Kushner, one of several observers, compadres, and detractors who provide the context—and, sometimes, reality check—in which Commander X’s rough and righteous odyssey unfolds.

We are introduced to Commander X by Toronto novelist Ian Thornton who confesses that, at first, he couldn’t believe that the thin, craggy, talkative panhandler he’d befriended was a cyber warlord who’d been on the run from the FBI for six years. 

We soon learn Doyon is an old-school revolutionary. As a computer-smitten teeager, he fled a difficult childhood in rural Maine, moving Zelig-like through various activist hotspots and taking up hacking long before most of us had heard the term. He considers himself a freedom-fighter who’s helped shape the 21st century.

When PayPal, Mastercard, and VISA blocked people from using their services to support Wikileaks, Commander X led the charge to nuke their websites, costing millions and waking the FBI up to the power of Anonymous. When the Egyptian government cut off the Internet during the Arab Spring, Commander X was one of the lead hackers to turn it back on.

More recently, as Homeland investigates Russian election hacking, Commander X says he knows that the Russian hackers are the real deal—he’s seen them lurking in the digital world through which he continues to stride.

“I’ll see you all later tonight on Anonymous Bites Back,” says Doyon, closing his livestream from a town square in Mexico. “Look for that on Twitter. I’ll be on, expect me.”

Premiered at Hot Docs 2021

The Politics of Climate Change

The World Health Organisation puts the number of deaths from climate change at 250,000 by 2050.

We travel the world to see how the devastation wrought by droughts, wildfires, floods and catastrophic rains – all the direct results of climate change – are a political problem, and require political solutions. From the outback of Australia, to the Pakistani Himalayas and Brazilian Amazon, this series takes us to the front line of the approaching disaster.

Along the way, we meet people and activists trying to find ways to tackle the biggest issue of the 21st century.

A combination of bad policies and political apathy is speeding up climate change. Have we reached the tipping point? Can it be reversed?

 

Episode 1 – Australia´s Coal Conundrum

Against the backdrop of dwindling water resources, ravaging bushfires and high unemployment, a controversial new mine set to be built in Central Queensland is being met with controversy and passionate resistance. Further mining activities promise to exacerbate the region’s already dwindling water resources while raising Australia’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions. The perceived silver lining in the building of the controversial Carmichael Mine is the promise of job creation. But, at what cost?

 

Episode 2 – Brazil´s Amazonian Battle

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon increased 30% since Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro came to power. More than 120,000 square kilometers of the Amazon forest have been destroyed: an area a fifth the size of Wales in the last 10 years. It’s displaced around 400 indigenous groups but has also decimated a vast store of carbon that is vital for tackling climate change. The jungles produce 20% of the world’s oxygen. We go on an investigative journey to reveal the gold rush pushing communities over the edge. Along the way, we meet the Mundurukku aboriginal tribes and activists fighting to stop the destruction of Amazon jungles. We also meet activists seeking solutions for a sustainable lifestyle.

 

Episode 3 – Pakistan´s Himalayan Meltdown

The word Himalaya means House of Snow, and is the second largest icecap outside the polar regions. But it is melting at the fastest rate in human history. One-third of the Himalayan glaciers are projected to disappear by the end of this century due to climate change, threatening the supply of water to nearly 2 billion people across South Asia. We discover how water became a major flash point between arch-rivals India and Pakistan, due to the Siachen glacier conflict, and go undercover to observe the proliferation of water thieves in Karachi. We also examine the impact of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s billion tree tsunami, Pakistan’s bold bid to mitigate worsening climate change.

Margin of Error: AI, Polling and Elections

In the face of a century of traditional polling to predict public opinion, there is a shakeup afoot in the prediction game. Margin of Error: AI, Polling and Elections examines how a startup called Advanced Symbolics (ASI) uses artificial intelligence (AI) and public social-media data to forecast voter behaviour. But the promise of new technology also comes with questions about its accuracy, the threat to citizens’ privacy and our democracy itself.

Every one of us volunteers a huge amount of private data with virtually every Internet service we use, without reading or understanding the terms of service. This data can now be harvested by AI to accurately predict among many other things, how we will vote.

Even without surrendering personal information, the new AI algorithm Polly, developed by ASI, combs social media to build profiles of different demographics and determines their preferences.This method has already led to Polly’s success in predicting both the 2016 Trump victory and Brexit. With the 2019 Canadian federal election campaign as a real time back drop, Margin of Error puts Polly to the test revealing how an AI doesn’t just give a detailed picture of the publics voting intentions, but also how specific events can alter them.

But will knowing what our hopes and concerns are, give politicians the intel they need to respond to our needs, and lead to a “utopian” society, as ASI’s CEO Erin Kelly claims, or can this data be misused to mislead us – either by our own governments, or those of our adversaries? And should politicians even be responding to our desires, as expressed through social media?

Mind Forward

The symbiosis of the brain / mind and artificial intelligence will give rise to a new humanity, a kind of ´super-humanity´.

Brain-machine communication will allow that the cognitive capabilities of human beings will be enhanced, giving rise to the first augmented humans. Connected brains will lead to powerful synthetic telepathy technologies making it possible to not only to read other person’s thoughts, but also manipulate them. But where what are the potential benefits and pitfalls of these new technologies?

Neuro – technologies are about to cause a radical social shift that will change our understanding of the inner self and our very conception of reality. Neuro – rights will be foremost, necessitating regulations that guarantee the privacy of our conscious or even subconscious thoughts.

Mind Forward explores the frontiers of this brave new world.

Non Western

We join Thaddeus and Nanci, a Native / Non Native Montanan couple, in the lead up to their wedding, as they face their biggest challenge yet. Thaddeus wants Nanci to convert to his Cheyenne way of life even if it forces Nanci into a subordinate role.

Both Nanci and Thaddeus were adopted as teenagers by families with different ethnicities: Thaddeus by a white Christian family, and Nanci by the Lakota tribe. It’s no coincidence they have sought shared experience and understanding in one another.

Thaddeus believes in returning to his Cheyenne culture and through running sweats he finds peace from the PTSD he suffers. Nanci wants to please him, to find a balance between life in the modern world and her Native traditions even if that means denying her independence.

Under the strain of trying to co-habit and survive together, we see the cracks in their values showing through. Cracks which reveal not just the trauma they suffered growing up, but the chain of oppression endemic in Montana.

Ten Dollar Death Trip: Inside The Fentanyl Crisis

With the world fighting a deadly pandemic, another heartbreaking public health crisis is raging in North America.  A new synthetic drug is killing more than gun crime, homicide and car accidents combined.

100 times stronger than heroin, the deadly opioid fentanyl is cheap, potent and small enough to send in the post. These market forces have seen it replacing the heroin supply, spreading unprecedented death, destruction and misery. And, like all epidemics, it is spreading fast.

The death toll has disproportionately affected the homeless and marginalised. And now, due to its strength and low cost, the drug is also starting to appear in party drugs, such as cocaine and cannabis – with fatal results.

We travel to Vancouver, the epicentre of the fentanyl epidemic to meet with health care workers, activists, fentanyl dealers and people who use it.

We learn of radical initiatives to fight back against a toxic drug supply and ask what the world should expect if the fentanyl epidemic spreads outside of North America.

The Dark Web (series)

There’s a dark side to the internet, and you probably don’t even know it exists. Look behind the positive veneer of social media, communication apps and platforms that have made our lives easier and more connected, and you’ll find criminals using the same apps and platforms to run illicit and dangerous activities.

Sextortion syndicates target victims globally through social media. Illegal wildlife trades thrive on social consumer marketplaces. Digital black markets operate anonymously using software designed for press privacy and freedom to sell drugs. Secret child pornography rings run rampant in secret, closed groups and private chats.

This explosive new series lifts the lid on how criminal organisations are thriving in this new digital frontier.


Episode One – The Queen of Sextortion

Sextortion was invented by one woman in the Philippines, Maria Caparas. She turned the idea of making friends online and recording explicit video chats into a profitable blackmail and extortion scam that could not exist without social media. She now runs a mini empire seemingly beyond the reach of authorities, that has led to many suicides.

Episode Two – Wildlife Clickbait

They may look like ordinary posts of exotic pets for sale on social media. But they are feeding a growing trade in illegal and endangered animals in Malaysia and beyond. This criminal industry is worth billions and is jeopardising attempts to protect endangered species.

Episode Three – Black Market Boom

Drugs, guns, counterfeit documents and much more are sold on dark web marketplaces that run on anonymous browsers and using cryptocurrency. AlphaBay was the biggest marketplace, transacting over US$800,000 in a day enabling its founder to live a luxury lifestyle in anonymity, until international law enforcement caught up with him.

Episode Four – The Candyman

It was one of 640 million closed groups on Facebook. Hiding behind the anonymity, the creator of child pornography group Loli Candy and its 7,000 members hid their activities on Facebook and Whatsapp – the dissemination of horrifying images of abuse. While they were eventually bought to justice many more thrive.

The Internet of Everything

The Internet is invading all aspects of your life. No longer confined to your computer or your phone, the Internet is now in garbage cans, refrigerators, and the infrastructure of our cities. The future will either be a surveillance nightmare or an eco-utopia, the outcome determined by startups in Silicon Valley and Shenzhen.

The Internet of Everything captures our present moment, when both futures still seem possible. 

Brett Gaylor – a reformed techno-utopian who works in the tech industry – will be your guide.

His award winning documentaries Rip! A Remix Manifesto and Do Not Track have mapped the public’s relationship with the Internet; first fascination and obsession, then growing discomfort around the abuse of our private information, and now a sense of confusion and dread.  If the pace of change and lack of agency is confusing for a techie like Brett, everyone else is probably feeling bewildered, too.

But now, with the connecting of the physical world into the “Internet of Things”, the stakes have been raised – it’s no longer just the abstractions of cyberspace that are spinning out of control, but instead our homes, our bodies and our cities that are being transformed.

It’s a fast, funny and enlightening take on the bewildering change the Internet has wrought. The Internet of Everything embraces the “tech-lash” while reflecting on the big picture of a world where we are all connected.

 

A five webisode miniseries is also available comprising new, complementary stories

 

Episode 1 – Screen time

It’s easy to point our finger at kids for too much screen time — we’ve all laughed at memes of children on their phones at the museum, in the park, or on a camping trip… but as adults, are we any better?

At his home in Victoria, B.C., reformed techno-utopian Brett Gaylor, like most parents, is in a constant battle between his kids and screens. But what happens when the internet moves beyond the screen and into the world around us? With innumerable connected objects and spaces, depending on how you see it, we’re either living in a futuristic utopia or a nightmarish surveillance state. Every connected product comes with a trade-off — from the carbon footprint of smart assistants, to the complicated health insurance implications of wearables, or safety concerns around self-driving cars.

 

Episode 2 – Alexa, Save the Planet

Ever wondered how much energy is needed for Alexa to play that 90s dance hits playlist you love so much? More than you think.

There are already 66 million smart assistants in operation in the United States alone, and the number is growing daily. But what are we trading for the convenience of turning the lights on with our voice? Director Brett Gaylor approaches the question from a child’s point of view with his daughter Layla as they grapple to understand the enormous amount of energy and processing power involved in the machine learning powering Alexa. In parallel, Amazon’s corporate carbon footprint continues to grow, between the massive amount of non-renewable energy used to power their web services, or the ongoing pollution from transport emissions. In 2018, staff protests prompt shareholders to confront management, demanding a plan for climate change and a reduction of the company’s dependence on fossil fuels.

 

Episode 3 – In Good Hands

It’s easy to get sucked into the cute graphics of your health monitoring app, but the data captured by your FitBit or smart watch is being used for much more than simply encouraging you to up your step count.

Director Brett Gaylor travels to the outskirts of Paris where four young roommates try out fitness trackers for the first time, allowing him to monitor their health data. He finds out much more about their lives than they were expecting — what time they go to bed, when they go to the convenience store for a late night snack, and who’s sleeping with whom. This is creepy enough in and of itself, but it gets worse when the data falls into the hands of third parties. Health Insurance companies and corporate “wellness” programs are using health data obtained from fitness trackers to make decisions about how much your health insurance should cost, or whether or not they will insure you at all.

 

Episode 4 – Take the Wheel

The fantasy of stepping into a self-driving car and kicking back to read, nap or work until you arrive at your destination has universal appeal. But are the cars, or the cities in which we plan to let them loose, up to the task?

Director Brett Gaylor travels to northern France where the company TEQMO is testing self-driving cars in common accident scenarios, such as getting cut-off at an intersection. Let’s just say, they still have some testing to do. On the infrastructure front, hacker Cesar Cerato is on a mission to expose weaknesses in smart city traffic systems. Steps from the White House in Washington, he is surprised to discover that Washington’s traffic sensors aren’t encrypted. With pedestrians and drivers’ lives at risk, algorithmic driving where we can trust the data to make the right decision seems to be a long way off.

 

Episode 5 – See Something, Say Something

The Ring doorbell camera is positioned as a great way to monitor who or what’s at the door, whether you’re home or not. But preying on consumers’ fears of their Amazon packages getting stolen, or worse, is having far-reaching impacts on communities and policing practices around the world.

Director Brett Gaylor meets community activists in Skid Row, Los Angeles, where law enforcement has partnered with Amazon’s Ring, with some unintended consequences. On a map obtained from the police, the activists notice that “hot spots,” where police predict crimes will occur based on users’ “reports of suspicision,” are often found not in the heart of Skid Row, but at the outskirts, where gentrifying communities are clashing with their less fortunate, often non-white neighbours. By embracing these technologies, are the police protecting everyone, or just the gentrified?

 

 

Drag Kids

Drag Kids is an intimate journey into the lives of four child drag queens from around the world. Stephan, Jason, Bracken and Nemis have never met, but they’re united by a shared passion for drag, and they’re about to come together for
 the first time – to perform Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ at the world-famous Montreal Pride Festival.

As they prepare for the big show, each faces their own unique challenges, as well as challenges they have in common – deep feelings of isolation and the struggle of trying to claim a place of your own on the fringes of a fringe culture.

The Rise of Jordan Peterson

With incredible exclusive access, The Rise of Jordan Peterson after he took a public stance against trans human rights legislation in Canada in late 2016 rising to meteoric global fame for denouncing political correctness.

Jordan Peterson gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the firestorm sparked by provocative professor and best selling author Filmmaker Patricia Marcoccia follows psychology professor Jordan Peterson as he navigates his way through the biggest controversy of his career. With candid interviews and unparalleled access to Peterson, his family, and to transgender and social justice activists who opposed his views, the documentary provides a fascinating look at this internationally scrutinised dispute.

Sparking both outrage and support, Peterson’s criticisms of Canada’s policies to enforce legal rights for non-binary gender identification were met with protests and calls for his dismissal from his tenured university position, as well as an outpouring of social and financial support for his public commentary on the underlying dangers of cultures becoming too politically correct.

Peterson quickly became a rorschach test for society: he was denounced as transphobic and bigoted by some, and praised as a hero for civil liberties by others. His public lectures, which were critical of social trends to tow the politically correct line, quickly transformed him into a famous public intellectual, internationally best-selling author and an academic rock star who tours sold-out venues around the world.

This film takes an unprecedented look at Jordan Peterson and explores the tension between free speech and hate speech, exploring points-of-view of those on both sides of this heightened debate.

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