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By Maria Isabel Alfonso
A young man in a baseball cap with "MIAMI" emblazoned on the front sits on a curb, looking at his phone. Beside him, an older man looks over his shoulder at the screen. Other Cubans sit on the curb or on the steps behind it, staring at their phones and tablets. In Cuba, a scene like this would have once been unthinkable. But since 2015, the government has loosened the rules on Internet access, allowing citizens to go online with their devices (for a fee) at designated WiFi hotspots.
The spread of online access-and people taking advantage of it for activities like blogging about politics and culture-is one of the signs of a renewed interest in bolstering Cuban civil society. But Cuba faces unique challenges in bolstering citizen engagement.
Near the start of RETHINKING CUBAN CIVIL SOCIETY, the film offers a definition of its central theme. "Civil society: The aggregate of non-governmental organizations and individuals that manifest the will and interests of citizens." Then, on the screen, the word "non-governmental" is crossed out. It is a striking visual illustration of Cuba's unique situation-one in which the public sector dominates much of society, playing an ambiguous role in civil society institutions.
Since the mid-1990s, Cuba has seen a rise in independent media, and a resurgence of movements fighting against racism, for economic justice and LGBTQI rights, and for greater democracy and citizen participation. In RETHINKING CUBAN CIVIL SOCIETY, Cuban academics, journalists and bloggers, and writers and musicians grapple with what it means to encourage healthy public participation and dissent in the context of Cuba: a country under embargo in which foreign-funded dissidents seek to overthrow the government, and at the same time a country in which the Communist Party has placed itself above the State.
In city parks and apartments, on stairwells, in classrooms, and in magazine offices, the people featured in RETHINKING CUBAN CIVIL SOCIETY grapple with these questions. Can more competitive elections and greater democracy exist in a one-party State? How can LGBTQI activists successfully influence government policy? How can access to the benefits of economic reforms allowing private business be extended to marginalized populations? Can the government help encourage a healthy, independent media eco-system? And how much of the stifling of civil society can be blamed on the embargo and how much is simply home-grown?
Thoughtful and engaging, the film is conveniently divided into chapters on class and activism, media, Internet and the blogosphere, political opposition, and Cuban civil society across international borders.
DVD (Spanish, With English Subtitles, Color) / 2018 / 37 minutes
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By Simon Brothers, Luke Mistruzzi, Anton Smolski, Mark Preston
The transformative power of the co-operative enterprise model, illustrated with many inspirational examples.
The co-operative movement was built by people who took on the responsibility for their collective well-being in the face of government neglect, economic exclusion and cultural discrimination.
As the modern economy increasingly denies vast sectors of the population basic amenities for decent life, this co-operative spirit is as critical as ever. However, over the years the co-op sector has become insular and poorly understood.
A SILENT TRANSFORMATION sets out to explore the innovative self-help efforts of different communities across the Province of Ontario, Canada. By addressing their needs collectively they are helping to regain the radical vision of co-operation.
In these communities are the seeds of economic democracy, global solidarity, and a new popular movement to transform society!
Will it grow and flourish?
DVD / 2018 / (Grades 10-12, College, Adults) / 70 minutes
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By Cosima Dannoritzer
Forget water, oil and rare minerals - there is a new resource everyone wants: our time. TIME THIEVES reveals how companies monetize our time without our knowledge and how the social networks have, in their own words, become 'the new clockmakers'.
TIME THIEVES is an eye-opening investigation into how our time became a currency; why 'time poverty' is on the rise and how the more we try to save time, the less we have. Who hasn't come across the situation where an airline has us printing our own boarding passes and checking in our own luggage, saving the company a fortune in working hours? Who hasn't spent hours assembling a piece of furniture, or struggled with an automatic cashier? Haven't we all asked ourselves who should be paying whom for doing all the work? Award-winning director Cosima Dannoritzer blends remarkable archival footage and heart-breaking stories with testimonies from leading experts in a documentary that was filmed on location in Japan, USA, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany.
TIME THIEVES investigates how time has become money, how the clock has taken over both our working and personal lives, and how we can take back control over this precious, but finite resource.
DVD (English, French, German, With English Subtitles, Color) / 2018 / 85 minutes
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By Christian Tod
What would you do if your income was taken care of?
Just a few years ago, an unconditional basic income was considered a pipe dream. Today, this utopia is more imaginable than ever before-intense discussions are taking place in all political and scientific camps.
FREE LUNCH SOCIETY provides background information about this idea and searches for explanations, possibilities and experiences regarding its implementation.
Globalization, automation, Donald Trump. The middle class is falling apart. One hears talk about the causes, rather than about solutions. Time for a complete rethinking:
An unconditional basic income means money for everyone - as a human right without service in return! Visionary reform project, neoliberal axe to the roots of the social state or socially romantic left-wing utopia? Depending on the type and scope, a basic income demonstrates very different ideological visions. Which side of the coin one sees depends on one's own idea of humankind: inactivity as sweet poison that seduces people into laziness, or freedom from material pressures as a chance for oneself and for the community. Do we actually need the whip of existential fear to avoid a lazy, depraved life in front of the TV set? Or does gainful employment give our lives meaning and social footing simply because we haven't known anything else for centuries? And because we've never all had the freedom to self-actualise in other ways?
That basic income is a powerful idea is indisputable: land, water and air are gifts of nature. They are different from private property that humans create by their individual effort. However, when we receive wealth from nature, from the commons, then that wealth belongs to all of us equally.
From Alaska's oil fields to the Canadian prairie, from Washington's think tanks to the Namibian steppes, the film takes us on a grand journey and shows us what the driverless car has to do with the ideas of a German billionaire and a Swiss referendum. FREE LUNCH SOCIETY, the first international film in cinemas about basic income, is dedicated to one of the most crucial questions of our times.
DVD (English, German, Color, Closed Captioned, With English Subtitles) / 2017 / 92 minutes
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By Florian Opitz
Politicians, economists and the media are obsessed with economic growth. But why do we still cling to this concept? Clearly it is impossible to have infinite growth on a finite planet.
This investigative documentary seeks to educate audiences about the term "growth", particularly in the world of economics. It seems today's society and financial markets are dictated by an ever-present need to grow. This film uncovers what this means and how it has developed through history. It looks at how and why it stopped during the Great Depression and the growing importance it took on in the '70s and '80s. We also see how growth looks in various industries, such as in the world of agriculture, manufacturing and on Wall Street. Capitalism is explored, as well as the ways in which financial markets determine - perhaps more than governments - the functioning of societies and countries. Finally, SYSTEM ERROR looks at the economic crash of 2008, its origins and its effects on the way we view growth. Is there a limit to this growth, especially now that technology is developing?
In SYSTEM ERROR award-winning director Florian Opitz ("Speed, In Search of Lost Time" and "The Big Sellout") examines the fundamentals of capitalism. He reveals unexpected correlations and lays bare the pathological nature of the current system. He also examines the continuing impact of Karl Marx as an analyst of capitalism.
Filmed in Brazil, China, Germany, the U.K and the U.S.A, System Error gives a fresh perspective on the capitalist system and where it is leading us.
DVD (English, German, Portuguese, With English Subtitles, Color) / 2017 / 96 minutes
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By Mathilde Damoisel
Bananas are everywhere: Americans eat nearly 10 billion of them per year, consuming more pounds of bananas than apples and oranges combined.
WHEN BANANA RULED tells the story of the men who made bananas the most ubiquitous fruit in the world, through a multinational empire that dominated production and sales, overthrew governments, and created a business model still largely used by today's tech giants.
The story of bananas as commodities begins with a failed railway project started in Costa Rica in 1871, led by American Minor Cooper Keith. When the Costa Rican government defaulted on its payments to Keith for its construction, the businessman faced ruin. His salvation? Bananas. Keith would go on to co-found the United Fruit Company and within decades-after a concerted campaign led by the father of public relations, Edward Bernays-bananas became a staple of the North American diet. Animated mascot Miss Chiquita Banana was a pop culture icon, doctors recommended bananas as an ideal food for children, and bananas popped up in movies and Broadway musicals.
But, as WHEN BANANA RULED documents, the entire enterprise was built on a rapacious, imperialist business model that required the domination of countries including Guatemala, Honduras, and Colombia. United Fruit took over critical national infrastructure like railways and ports, rapidly expanded plantations by displacing small (often Indigenous) farmers, bought itself favorable legislation, and, like today's largest companies, sheltered profits offshore to avoid taxes.
Life on the plantations was a world within a world: A strict hierarchy with white managers from the best business schools, foremen from the US South (recruited for their knowledge of slavery), and black laborers paid largely in company food coupons and strictly forbidden to unionize. When a new, revolutionary government was formed in Guatemala, United Fruit's plantations were nationalized. What happened next came straight from the playbook that would dominate US foreign policy in the region: claim a Communist threat, persuade legislators back home of its dangers, bomb the country, and install a new, pro-American and pro-business regime.
Using a rich trove of archival footage and documents, including letters to and from lobbyists, telegrams, vintage ads and movie clips, and gorgeous, hand-tinted stills, WHEN BANANA RULED is a story of intrigue that touches on economics, international politics, the history of multinational business and reveals how an array of forces conquered the world through a simple fruit.
DVD (Color, Closed Captioned) / 2017 / 52 minutes
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Directed by Deborah Kaufman, Alan Snitow
A grassroots movement challenges Citizens United, corporate power, and moguls of the "sharing economy" to stop gentrification and wrest back control of San Francisco's future.
The once free-spirited city of San Francisco is now a "Company Town," a playground for tech moguls of the "sharing economy." Airbnb is the biggest hotel, Uber privatizes transit. And now these companies want political power as well.
Meanwhile, middle class and ethnic communities are driven out by gentrification, skyrocketing rents and evictions, sparking a grassroots backlash. Can an insurgent electoral campaign overcome corporate power and billionaires' megabucks to change a city's course?
COMPANY TOWN shows how a grassroots coalition of unions, tenants, neighborhoods of color, activists and artists can come together to win.
DVD / 2016 / (Grades 9-12, College, Adults) / 77 minutes
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Directed by Steve Alves
The deep history of cooperatives in America -- the country's longest-surviving alternative economic system.
FOOD FOR CHANGE looks at the current resurgence of food cooperatives in America and their unique historic place in the economic and political landscape. Born in the heartland, cooperatives are seen as the middle path between Wall Street and Socialism.
The film profiles several food co-ops that have revived neighborhoods and communities - right in the shadows of corporate agribusinesses and supermarket chains. It's an inspiring example of community-centered economies thriving in an age of globalization.
DVD / 2016 / (Grades 7-12, College, Adult) / 82 minutes
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By Ricardo Figueredo Oliva
Seven pounds of rice, five pounds sugar, four ounces coffee, half a pound cooking oil, five eggs, 10 ounces beans, a small bread roll and a pound a half of meat - that's the monthly allotment for Cubans under the country's rationing system.
An independent film financed through crowd-funding and without the financial support of traditional Cuban film institutions, THE SINGULAR STORY OF UNLUCKY JUAN is a comprehensive, accessible examination of the particularities of the Cuban economy. Using a fictional worker called Juan as an example, the film shows how the economy affects the daily lives of ordinary citizens - and how badly it squeezes those who don't have access to hard currency.
Cuba has two currencies: the Cuban Peso and the CUC - a far more valuable currency pegged to international exchange rates. Tourists pay in CUCs and shop at CUC stores, which stock higher quality goods at a huge premium.
Divided into chapters covering rations, the marketplace, CUC stores, private business, corruption, economic migration, and future Cuba, the documentary walks us through how each of these affects Juan and those like him. The film interviews a cross-section of Cuban workers and an economist who favours a more free-market approach, and offers sometimes hypnotic shots evoking economic activity: butchers cutting meat, fruit vendors at markets, shops lined with luxury goods inaccessible to most.
Juan starts the month with 250 Cuban pesos. But once he's paid for his food rations, extra food to meet his needs for the month, transit, utilities, and the new energy-efficient fridge he was obliged to buy (and use 20% of his monthly salary to pay off over a 10-year term), there is little left. No wonder so many Cubans rely on living with relatives, overseas remittances, or getting involved in corruption and the black market.
As bad as things are, Cubans worry about what the future will look like once relations with the United States eventually become normalized. Speaking about the US, they worry the Americans "will swallow us whole" and use words like "crushed" and "assimilated" to describe what may lie ahead. The door has already been slightly opened - with a new foreign economic development zone and relaxed rules allowing some Cubans to own private businesses. But these are no panacea either. Small-business owners report frequent harassment, ticketing for endless infractions, and bureaucratic roadblocks. "I don't own this business," says a tired-looking woman, "I am its slave."
DVD (Spanish, With English Subtitles, Color) / 2016 / 52 minutes
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Directed by Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin
Weconomics: Italy reports on the extensive and innovative cooperative economy in the region around Bologna.
The Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy has one of the highest concentrations of cooperative businesses in the developed world. The capital, Bologna is an industrial powerhouse, where prosperity is widely shared, and cooperatives of teachers and social workers play a key role in the provision of government services.
DVD / 2016 / (Grades 9-12, College, Adult) / 19 minutes
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By Carola Fuentes and Rafael Valdeavellano
After the 1973 coup which brought Augusto Pinochet to power, a group of Chilean economists were given the power to turn Chile into a laboratory for the world's most radical neo-liberal experiments.
These men, including Sergio de Castro and Rolf Lüders, both of whom would serve as ministers of finance during the Pinochet years, met in the 1950s at the University of Chicago, where they studied under the famed economist Milton Friedman, and the man who would become their mentor, Arnold Harberger.
CHICAGO BOYS is their story from their student days through the dictatorship, told by the Chicago Boys themselves. Could their program for 'economic freedom,' such a drastic restructuring of the Chilean economy, only have been implemented by an authoritarian regime? What were they willing to do to achieve their goals? And how do they see the long-term results today?
Even though they do eventually acknowledge some of the darker sides of their work, Lüders "couldn't care less about inequality," de Castro feels bad for the torturers, and they all seem completely baffled by those Chileans who have filled the streets, for five years now, in protest against their legacy.
DVD (Color) / 2015 / 85 minutes
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Directed by Tom Boothe
Looks at the workings of a highly profitable supermarket, Brooklyn's Park Slope Food Coop, which for 44 years has been a shining example of a successful alternative economic system at work.
FOOD COOP takes us deep into the belly of the Park Slope Food Coop, one of America's oldest cooperative food supermarkets, with a healthy dose of insight and wit.
Nestled deep in New York City, which, for many, exemplifies both the glory and the horrors of the capitalist spirit, you can find this highly prosperous institution, just as American and certainly more efficient than Wall Street, but whose objective is entirely non-profit. Working against everything that defines "The American Way of Life," the basic principles of the Park Slope Food Coop are simple: each of its 16,000 members work 2.75 hours per month to earn the right to buy the best food in New York at incredibly low prices. This Brooklyn coop founded in 1973 is probably the best implemented socialist experience in the United States.
Through FOOD COOP, you will see this institution come to life and witness how the enthusiasm that animates the Park Slope Food Coop demonstrates a potential for change; how the coop's mode of participation viscerally teaches democracy to those who take part in its activities.
DVD / 2015 / (Grades 7-12, College, Adult) / 97 minutes
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In Canada, while the economic recovery has eased for many, the youth unemployment rate remains staggering-double that of the general population. The documentary Generation Jobless explores the crisis of over-educated youths being underemployed, scraping by in low-paid, part-time jobs that do not require a degree just to pay off their debt while struggling to find real jobs. Some call them the lost generation, but it is not only young people who will pay the price.
If this generation is unable to forge a way into the economy, whose taxes will support the social safety net? If young people can't afford to buy homes, will the real estate market come crashing down again?
Youth unemployment and underemployment is a ticking time bomb with consequences for everyone.
DVD / 2015 / 43 minutes
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Capitalism has been the engine of unprecedented economic growth and social transformation. With the fall of the communist states and the triumph of "neo- liberalism," capitalism is by far the world's dominant ideology. But how much do we understand about how it originated, and what makes it work?
CAPITALISM is an ambitious and accessible six-part documentary series that looks at both the history of ideas and the social forces that have shaped the capitalist world.
Blending interviews with some of the world's great historians, economists, anthropologists, and social critics, with on-the-ground footage shot in twenty-two countries, CAPITALISM questions the myth of the unfettered free market, explores the nature of debt and commodities, and retraces some of the great economic debates of the last 200 years.
Each fifty-two minute episode is designed to stand alone, making these ideal for classroom use or as an additional resource for students:
Episode 1: Adam Smith, The Birth of the Free Market
Capitalism is much more complex than the vision Adam Smith laid out in The Wealth of Nations. Indeed, it predates Smith by centuries and took root in the practices of colonialism and the slave trade.
Episode 2: The Wealth of Nations: A New Gospel?
Adam Smith was both economist and moral philosopher. But his work on morality is largely forgotten, leading to tragic distortions that have shaped our global economic system.
Episode 3: Ricardo and Malthus: Did You Say Freedom?
The roots of today's global trade agreements lie in the work of stockbroker David Ricardo and demographer Thomas Malthus. Together, they would restructure society in the image of the market.
Episode 4: What If Marx Was Right?
Have we gotten Marx wrong by focusing on the Communist Manifesto instead of on his critique of how capitalism works - a critique that is relevant and as penetrating as ever?
Episode 5: Keynes vs Hayek: A Fake Debate?
The ideological divide between the philosophies of John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek has dominated economics for nearly a century. Is it time for the pendulum to swing back to Keynes? Or do we need a whole new approach that goes beyond this dualism?
Episode 6: Karl Polanyi, The Human Factor
An exploration of the life and work of Karl Polanyi, who sought to reintegrate society and economy. Could the commodification of labour and money ultimately be as disastrous as floods, drought and earthquakes?
CAPITALISM is an impressive series that makes economics accessible through an interdisciplinary approach that explores the work of great thinkers, while embedding economics in specific social, political, and historical contexts.
The series features some of the world's top economists, historians, anthropologists, and sociologists, including Thomas Piketty, Noam Chomsky, Yanis Varoufakis, Nicholas Phillipson, Kari Polanyi Levitt, David Graeber, and Abraham Rotstein.
3 DVDs (Color, Closed Captioned) / 2014 / 320 minutes
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Smart, eye - opening and incendiary, THE PRICE WE PAY examines the timely issue of tax avoidance and exposes how tech giants like Google, Amazon and others of the "cloud" economy are eroding the foundations of the democratic state by using tax havens to stash trillions of dollars offshore and thus deprive governments of hundreds of billions in corporate - tax revenue each year. This practice is arguably legal - but is it fair?
Assembling interviews with leading economists and academics from around the world including Thomas Piketty, author of The New York Times bestseller Capital in the Twenty - First Century, award - winning director Harold Crooks (Surviving Progress) blows the lid off the dirty world of corporate malfeasance.
DVD / 2014 / 93 minutes
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By Aaron Matthews
For decades, small town life in the United States has been slowly and quietly eroding. But there are overlooked stories amidst the talk of America's economic decline: the stories of individual men and women in the "Rust Belt" community in Lewistown, Pennsylvania. Once one of the country's largest steel manufacturing centers, Lewistown lost its manufacturing base and industrial might a generation ago and has since become a "ghost town." DOWNTOWN DREAM follows the lives of five dynamic men and women living in Lewistown who refuse to be counted out and instead struggle to reinvent their lives and their dreams in America's chilly economic climate.
Over the course of two years, in DOWNTOWN DREAM, viewers witness five dynamic personal journeys that also concretize the struggles of the town itself. Jon, a developer, reflects Lewistown's wistful remembrance of nobler days; Bernard, a pastor and one of 150 African Americans in Lewistown, embodies the town's potential resurrection; Pam, a would-be salon owner, reflects the can-do spirit that may be a remedy for Lewistown's business community; Barb, a recovering addict, and Katie, her daughter and an aspiring actress and singer, personify its potential physical rehabilitation. Lyrical and intimate, the film reveals typical Americans in a typical American place grappling with the question on everybody's lips today: How do you make it in America anymore?
After more than 40 years of decay, Lewistown is now at a crossroads. The town leaders have drawn up a comprehensive redevelopment plan, and it is taking shape. In order to beautify the deserted downtown, streets have been widened, trees have been planted and buildings have been razed. The centerpiece of the plan-spending $250,000 in state funding to install a park in the town's center-is underway.
The situation in Lewistown mirrors the fate of the nation at this critical point in history. How do Americans make sense of economic and political forces beyond their control? Will they make a go of it and if so, how? In DOWNTOWN DREAM, Jon, Bernard, Pam, Barb and Katie reinvent their dreams in the face of devastation and decay.
DVD (Color, Closed Captioned) / 2013 / 45 minutes
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By Jason Barker
MARX RELOADED is a cultural documentary that examines the relevance of German socialist and philosopher Karl Marx's ideas for understanding the global economic and financial crisis.
The recent crisis triggered the deepest global recession in 70 years and prompted the US government to spend more than 1 trillion dollars in order to rescue its banking system from collapse. Today the full implications of the crisis in Europe and around the world still remain unclear. Nevertheless, should we accept the crisis as an unfortunate side-effect of the free market? Or is there another explanation as to why it happened and its likely effects on our society, our economy and our whole way of life?
Today a new generation of philosophers, artists and political activists are returning to Marx's ideas in order to try to make sense of the crisis and to consider whether a world without or beyond capitalism is possible. Is the severity of the ongoing recession a sign that the capitalist system's days are numbered? Ironically, 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, could it be that communism might provide the solution to the growing economic and environmental challenges facing the planet?
Written and directed by Jason Barker - himself an experienced writer, lecturer, translator and doctor of philosophy - MARX RELOADED includes interviews with leading thinkers on Marxism, including those at the forefront of a popular revival in Marxist and communist ideas. The film also includes interviews with leading skeptics of this revival as well as light-hearted animation sequences which follow Marx's adventures through the matrix of his own ideas.
Interviews with leading experts include: Norbert Bolz, Micha Brumlik, John Gray, Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri, Nina Power, Jacques Ranciere, Peter Sloterdijk, Alberto Toscano, and Slavoj Zizek.
DVD (Color, Closed Captioned) / 2011 / 52 minutes
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By Allan Sekula and Noel Burch
The "forgotten space" of Allan Sekula and Noel Burch's essay film is the sea, the oceans through which 90% of the world's cargo now passes. At the heart of this space is the container box, which, since its invention in the 1950s, has become one of the most important mechanisms for the global spread of capitalism.
The film follows the container box along the international supply chain, from ships to barges, trains, and trucks, mapping the byzantine networks that connect producers to consumers (and more and more frequently, producing nations to consuming ones). Visiting the major ports of Rotterdam, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Guangdong province, and many places between, it connects the economic puzzle pieces that corporations and governments would prefer remain scattered.
We meet people who have been reduced to cogs in this increasingly automated machine - the invisible laborers who staff the cargo ships, steer the barges, drive the trucks, and migrate to the factories, and whose low wages form the base of the entire enterprise. The film also introduces us to those who this system's efficiency has marginalized: the longtime unemployed occupants of a California tent city, Dutch farmers whose land is bisected by a new high-speed train line, and the displaced residents of Doel, Belgium, whose city is slated for demolition in order to expand the port of Antwerp.
Employing a wide range of materials and styles, from interviews to classic film clips, essayistic voiceover to observational footage, THE FORGOTTEN SPACE provides a panoramic portrait of the new global economy and a compelling argument about why it must change.
DVD (Color) / 2010 / 112 minutes
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By Alexandru Solomon
When George Becali's limousine was stolen in 2009, he didn't call the police. Instead, Becali - one of the wealthiest men in Romania - turned to his personal bodyguards. They tracked down the alleged thieves, then captured and tortured them. Becali was imprisoned briefly. Soon after his release, he was elected to the European Parliament.
Few stories better illustrate contemporary Romanian economic and political realities: the fluid line between private wealth and political power, and the egos of wealthy men who see their own actions as above the law.
Becali is one of the rich and powerful Romanian magnates who have dominated the post-Communist Romanian economy, and to whom filmmaker Alexandru Solomon introduces us in his startling documentary Kapitalism: Our Secret Recipe.
With the 1989 fall of the Ceausescu regime the future seemed bright. Freed from its tyranny, Romanians looked forward to a capitalist, entrepreneurial age marked by freedom and a higher standard of living.
Twenty years later, Romania has the smallest GDP of all former Communist countries, with a third of the economy controlled by a small group of millionaires. Meanwhile, spending on infrastructure has stagnated: Romania's roads rank 110th in the world. Kapitalism: Our Secret Recipe seeks to understand how this came to pass - how public assets enriched very few, to the detriment of the country.
Rather than trying to understand the elite from a distance, Solomon sits down with them and asks them pointed questions. And they are surprisingly forthcoming in their responses.
Take Dan Voiculescu, the Vice-President of the Romanian Senate, who leveraged a job with a state-controlled export company into a net worth in the billions. Speaking in his palatial home, under an oil painting of himself, Voiculescu makes no apologies: a small group of people were in a position to get rich, and they did.
Then there's Dinu Patriciu, who bought a state-owned oil refinery valued at 615 million Euros for only 50 million Euros - then sold it a few years later for two billion. By its very nature, capitalism in a transitional period is "immoral" he says.
Intermingled with the interviews, are whimsical but effective animated sequences that use clay, LEGO and Playmobil to visually highlight key points and clearly demonstrate labyrinthine transactions. In addition to its personal interviews with the oligarchs, Kapitalism also depicts them at a distance, on television screens overlooking Bucharest, for instance. Here, they are remote, unapproachable - as most Romanians would experience them.
Ultimately, what Kapitalism suggests is that not much has changed over the last 20 years. The film imagines Ceausescu returning from the dead to tour the country now, and finding much to like. "You have maintained the three pillars of the Communist Party," this imaginary Ceausescu tells a group of assembled magnates. "Prejudice. Corruption. Relationships."
DVD (Color) / 2010 / 55 minutes
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By Sarah Vos
Ever since microfinance entrepreneur Muhammad Yunus won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, microfinance projects have played a growing role in international development.
For executives like Reliance Financial CEO Baboucarr Khan and COO Ismaila Faal, the field offers opportunities to raise people out of poverty - and to make money.
Banking the Unbanked is a verite documentary that follows Khan, Faal and other members of the Gambia-based Reliance team as they try to build the bank into a viable West African financial institution. Their target clients: those who make under five dollars a day. Taxi drivers. Small shopkeepers. Seamstresses. Fishermen.
Running the company weighs heavily on Khan. We see his frustration when construction on a new branch is not only sloppy but also behind schedule. And he is taken to task by the board of directors for an outburst against the Central Bank of Gambia - Reliance's regulator - after it issues a scathing report on some of the bank's practices. Meanwhile, members of the Reliance senior management team participate in an executive leadership program run by a Dutch university.
As Reliance falters, microfinance consultant Craig Feinberg urges a harder line on defaulting creditors - and suggests the possibility of getting out of small loans altogether, concentrating instead on wire transfers and foreign exchange.
Banking the Unbanked captures the tension and drama in the surprisingly cut-throat world of microfinance - a world where many small loans add up to a whole lot of money. Can promoting development by lending to those at the bottom of the economic ladder co-exist with the need to provide investors with attractive rates of return?
DVD (Color) / 2009 / 56 minutes
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The Rise of Disaster Capitalism features Naomi Klein explaining the ideas and research behind her bestselling book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. In this riveting lecture and interview, Klein challenges and exposes the popular myth of the free market economy's peaceful global victory.
Around the world there are people with power who are cashing in on chaos, exploiting bloodshed and catastrophe to brutally implement their policies. They are the shock doctors. From Chile in 1973 to Iraq today, this is the chilling tale of how a few are making a killing while more are getting killed.
DVD / 2009 / 77 minutes
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Directed by John de Graaf
Ecological economist Dave Batker questions whether GDP is an adequate measure of society's well-being and suggests workable alternatives.
Fame, ecological economist Dave Batker presents a humorous, edgy, factual, timely and highly-visual monologue about the American economy today, challenging the ways we measure economic success--especially the Gross Domestic Product--and offering an answer to the question: What's the Economy for, Anyway?
Using Gifford Pinchot's idea that the economy's purpose is "the greatest good for the greatest number over the longest run," Batker compares the performance of the U.S. economy with that of other industrial countries in terms of providing a high quality of life, fairness and ecological sustainability, concluding that when you do the numbers, we come out near the bottom in nearly every category.
Batker shines a humorous light on such economic buzzwords as "productivity," and "consumer sovereignty," while offering ideas for "capitalism with a human face," a new economic paradigm that meets the real needs of people and the planet.
DVD / 2009 / (Grades 10-12, College, Adult) / 40 minutes
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By IJsbrand van Veelen
With America's version of capitalism seemingly heading for bankruptcy, is there a crisis-proof economic model that can shape the 21st century?
In THE WORLD'S NEXT SUPERMODEL, three prominent thinkers argue for competing economic models. Kishore Mahbubani, author of The New Asian Hemisphere, pitches the Asian model, characterized by the economic successes of China, India and Singapore. Wouter Bos, Dutch Minister of Finance, claims that the values of the European model are superior, while Brazilian economist Marcelo Neri praises the economic success of his country.
The proposals for these models are discussed by a jury consisting of macro-economist Willem Buiter, professor at the London School of Economics, New America Foundation's Parag Khanna, an expert analyst of global geopolitical issues, and author and Yale law and globalization professor Amy Chua.
These expert "judges," in a lively debate, examine the three models on the basis of issues such as social stability, environmental sustainability, government and market relationship, and their crisisproof nature. Their surprising decision is sure to provoke continued debates on this important global issue.
DVD (Color, Closed Captioned) / 2009 / 48 minutes
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Directed by Erwin Wagenhofer
Erwin Wagenhofer's incredible odyssey tracking our money through the worldwide finance system.
LET'S MAKE MONEY follows the trail of our money through the worldwide finance system.
What does our retirement savings have to do with the property blow-up in Spain? We don't have to buy a home there in order to be involved. As soon as we open an account, we're part of the worldwide finance market--whether we want to be or not. We customers have no idea where our debtors live and what they do to pay our interest fees. Most of us aren't even interested, because we like to follow the call of the banks to "Let your money work.'' But money can't work. Only people, animals or machines can work.
The film starts at the Ahafo mine in Ghana, West Africa, where vast areas are being blasted open. Gold is extracted from the rock in a tedious process, then smelted and flown directly to Switzerland. The spoils are divided up proportionally: 3% for Africa, 97% for the West. The mine was opened with the assistance of the World Bank.
"I don't think the investor should be responsible for the ethics, the pollution or anything the company in which he has invested produces. That's not his job. His job is to invest and earn money for his clients." - Mark Mobius, president of Templeton Emerging Markets
"In the end it's always the so-called man or woman on the street who's left paying the bills." - Hermann Scheer, winner of the alternative Nobel Prize and a member of German Parliament
DVD / 2008 / (Grades 10-12, College, Adult) / 107 minutes
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By Yves Billy & Richard Prost
Today more than three billion people worldwide suffer from malnutrition, including one billion who are starving. The current global economic crisis has created food shortages, skyrocketing prices, and food riots in some countries. With the world of agriculture confronting the impact of such factors as global warming, population urbanization trends, changes in eating habits, and increased use of grains for biofuels, SEEDS OF HUNGER outlines the shape of an impending global food crisis.
Filmed in Africa, China, Latin America and the U.S., SEEDS OF HUNGER examines issues involved in creating such a crisis, including the politics of food security and scarcity, declining food production and the need for increased production to meet population growth, the impact of genetically modified foods, water shortages, famine, food aid programs, the loss of crop land, and national food production, distribution and export policies.
These and other issues are explored in interviews with farmers, financial analysts and food buyers and importers worldwide, as well as Maryam Rahmanian of the Centre for Sustainable Development and Environment, Bruno Parmentier, Director of the Ecole Supérieure d'Agriculture, Zhang Shihuang of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, Lester Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute, Marc Dufumier, researcher for AgroParisTech, Amani Elobeid of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, and Stefan Tangermann of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
DVD (Color) / 2008 / 52 minutes
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