America’s Most Hated Family in Crisis

Following up on his hugely popular and acclaimed 2007 documentary The Most Hated Family In America, Louis Theroux returns to Topeka, Kansas, for a second visit to the Westboro Baptist Church.

A fire-and-brimstone Christian group, made up of 80 or so members of the Phelps family, the WBC have made themselves notorious in America – and worldwide – for their pickets of the funerals of soldiers killed in action, where they wield anti-gay placards.

The Phelps believe the soldiers were killed as part of God’s punishment of America for its toleration of homosexuality. But, four years on from Louis’s last visit, there are signs of disarray in the Phelps clan. A series of defections of family members has shaken up the church. They’ve been at the centre of a landmark Supreme Court case and, possibly because of the resulting attention, their beliefs have become increasingly bizarre.

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PsyWar

The new documentary “Psywar,” featuring CMD founder John Stauber, explores corporate and government use of propaganda and public relations to manipulate American people. The movie explores how the U.S. government staged events to manipulate public opinion about the Iraq war, like the rescue of Private Jessica Lynch, the supposedly spontaneous mob that pulled over the larger-than-life statue of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. It also discusses the Pentagon pundit scandal, and the hidden activities of the Rendon Group, a PR firm specializing in spinning war.

The film exposes government and corporate activities to blur the lines between real news and fake news, as well as the development over time of public relations misinformation campaigns, strategic corporate campaigns to generate goodwill and the perception of good works, the use of staged photo-ops, and other manipulative PR tools that have turned the land of the free and the home of the brave into a place where citizens are now manipulated with great efficiency, and on a massive scale.

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Loose Change 9/11: An American Coup

With the departure of the Bush Administration and the arrival of an “era of transparency,” opportunities are arising for the disclosure of new information that may shed more light on the events that took place before and after 9/11/2001.

Dramatically narrated by Daniel Sunjata of FX’s Rescue Me. This film first examines mysterious and infamous events that reshaped world history – from the Reichstag Fire in 1933 that catapulted Hitler to dictatorship – to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident in 1964 that led to the Vietnam War, and then takes viewers on a turbulent journey through several pivotal moments in history before delving into the most significant catastrophe in recent memory, 9/11.

Eight years later, the American people continue to live in the aftermath of 9/11 and deal with its ongoing repercussions. The film serves as a fundamental call to action which is fueled by hope that those affected by 9/11 will soon receive the answers that they have sought after for nearly a decade.

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Diamonds of War: Africa’s Blood Diamond

Long a symbol of love, affection and faithfulness, the diamond is now increasingly linked with war, blood and brutality. In the diamond-rich West African nation of Sierra Leone, rebels used the precious gems to bankroll a violent ten-year insurrection, leaving a terrorized population and a ravaged landscape in its wake. National Geographic correspondents follow the trail of illicit diamonds from their origin in the muddy pits of impoverished Sierra Leone, to the pristine cobblestone streets of Antwerp, Belgium, to their final stop in the glittering display cases of New York’s finest jewelry stores.

Released to coincide with the big-budget Leonardo Di Caprio vehicle BLOOD DIAMOND, this documentary, produced by the National Geographic channel, examines the diamond trade of Sierra Leone. DIAMONDS OF WAR illustrates how violence and even war have broken out in the region as a result of its diamonds.

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Restrepo

The film explores the year that Junger and Hetherington spent in Afghanistan on assignment for Vanity Fair, embedded with the Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team of the U.S. Army in the Korengal Valley. The 2nd Platoon is depicted defending an Observation Post (OP) named OP Restrepo, for PFC Juan Sebastián Restrepo, a Colombian-born naturalized U.S. citizen platoon medic who was killed earlier in the campaign.

The film follows the 2nd Platoon of Battle Company on a 15-month deployment in the Korengal Valley of northeast Afghanistan in the Nuristan area. The Korengal flows north to the Pech, which then flows east to the Kunar River valley on the border with Pakistan. The film chronicles the lives of the men from their deployment to the time of their return home. The Korengal Valley was at the time regarded as “the deadliest place on Earth” (as stated in the documentary itself, trailers, and television commercials on the National Geographic Channel). The goal of the deployment was to clear the Korengal Valley of insurgency and gain the trust of the local populace.

They begin their deployment at OP Korengal, and early in the campaign PFC Restrepo is killed, as well as another team member, PFC Vimoto. The film portrays negotiations with the local people, construction of an advanced outpost, OP Restrepo, as well as the challenges and intermittent firefights they face.

In the latter portion of the film, the dangerous mission Operation Rock Avalanche is shown along with some of its tragic consequences, such as dead civilians and soldiers, as well as the emotional distress that the soldiers are left with in its aftermath.

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ETHOS

Ethos is a powerful documentary hosted by Woody Harrelson, is an investigation into the flaws in our systems, and the mechanisms that work against democracy, our environment and the common good. With a stunning depth of research and breadth of analysis, this film delves deep into the inter-connected worlds of Politics, Multi-National Corporations and the Media.

Most of us have wondered at some point how we have arrived at a situation where democracy is touted as having created an equal society when all we see is injustice and corruption. Politicians openly deceive the public with the support of major corporations and the mainstream media. Wars are waged, the environment is destroyed and inequality is on the rise. But what is the source of these institutional mechanisms which when we scratch the surface are so clearly anti-democratic, so contradictory to the values we hold in common and yet so firmly embedded that they seem beyond discussion?

Ethos opens a Pandora’s box that has its roots in the cross-roads where capitalism meets-democracy, implicates every power-elite puts profit before people and finally offers a solution whereby you the viewer can regain control using the one thing they do care about…., your cash.

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Status Anxiety

Why doesn’t money (usually) buy happiness? Alain de Botton breaks new ground for most of us, offering reasons for something our grandparents may well have told us, as children.
It is rare, and pleasing, to see a substantial philosophical argument sustained as well as it is in this documentary. De Botton claims that we are more anxious about our own importance and achievements than our grandparents were. This is status anxiety.
Alain quotes philosophical writings, such as Democracy in America, a report by Alexis de Tocqueville on his visit to the USA in 1831. De Tocqueville noted that American equality, notable in those times, was accompanied by a climate of envy.
We jump to present-day USA, and see what, to de Botton, are some awful examples of The American Way. A Christian preaches get rich. A steelworker tells of his insecure life in an industry being closed down through others’ love of money.
Our protagonist points out the advantage of high status: those with high status will enjoy the care and attention of the world. Then joins this advantage with the illusion, or attempt at meritocracy in the USA, mentioning Jefferson’s notion of an aristocracy of talent.

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How Violent are You?

What makes ordinary people commit extreme acts of violence?

In a thought-provoking and disturbing journey, Michael Portillo investigates one of the darker sides of human nature. He discovers what it is like to inflict pain and is driven to the edge of violence himself in an extreme sleep deprivation study.

He meets men for whom violence has become an addiction and ultimately discovers that each of us could be inherently more violent than we think, and watches a replication of one of the most controversial studies in history, the Milgram study. Will study participants be willing to administer a seemingly lethal electric shock to someone they think is an innocent bystander?

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Louis Theroux- Ultra Zionists

If ever there was a troubled subject that could be opened up by Louis Theroux’s brilliant brand of Gonzo journalism, then it is the acrimonious dispute between Jewish settlers and the Palestinian people of the West Bank.

Obviously acrimonious doesn’t quite cover it, but there’s enough web space devoted to that subject to stop a squadron of Israeli tanks. Louis’ disarming style of reporting might be cleverly confrontational, but as always his goal is to get to the real stories behind all the religious fanaticism – and he’s good at it.

Anyone who has any interest in the incendiary subject matter will be prepared for the spoutings of the Ultra-Zionists mentioned in the title. Some of them are rather sombre, but you can tell that even the most reasonable among them (or those conscious enough to understand the power of a television camera) are quietly steeled by a cold and unshakable determination that God has chosen their people.

Of course others work themselves into a frenzy as they talk to Theroux and they seem all the more crazier standing next to Louis as he works his trademark affability to great effect. As questioning methods go, it’s pretty impressive. Not quite as impressive as the arm on some of the Palestinian kids though, one lad picks out Israeli soldiers with ease from at least 50 metres…

As the programme progresses, there are a couple of themes that keep coming up. First of all, there are a staggering amount of American accents to be heard amongst the Zionists that Louis encounters, from both the residents and tourists alike.

The intertwining of Jewish and American culture is famous (just ask Mel Gibson’s local bartender) but we see groups of American tourists arriving in trouble hotspots by the bus-load. The pilgrims claim their presence is ideological and not political.

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I AM

I AM is a 2011 documentary film written, narrated, and directed by Tom Shadyac. The documentary explores Shadyac’s personal journey after a 2007 bicycle accident, “the nature of humanity” and “world’s ever-growing addiction to materialism.” The film, shot with Shadyac and a team of four, contrasts sharply with Shadyac’s previous comedic work.

Shadyac had suffered post-concussion syndrome after a 2007 bicycle accident in Virginia, experiencing months of acute headaches and hyper-sensitivity to light and noise. The injury followed the cumulative effects of previous mild head injuries Shadyac had suffered surfing, mountain biking and playing basketball.

A 2011 New York Times article stated that: “the symptoms of a concussion [didn’t] go away. Something as simple as a trip to the grocery store was painful for Shadyac, whose brain was unable to filter various stimuli.

After medical treatments failed to help, he isolated himself completely, sleeping in his closet and walling the windows of his mobile home with black-out curtains. As his symptoms finally began to subside, the director wanted to share his inner quest in the way he knew best: through film.” Shadyac likened the experience to Dante’s Seventh Circle of Hell.

Shadyac subsequently gave away his excess fortune, opening a homeless shelter in Charlottesville, Virginia and making a key donation to Telluride, Colorado’s effort to set aside a natural area at the town’s entrance. He reoriented and simplified his life, sold his 17,000-square-foot (1,600 m2) Los Angeles mansion and moved into a trailer park — albeit the exclusive Paradise Cove park in Malibu.

In the film, Shadyac conducts interviews with scientists, religious leaders, environmentalists and philosophers including Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, Lynne McTaggart, Elisabet Sahtouris, David Suzuki, Howard Zinn, and Thom Hartmann. The film asks two central questions: What’s Wrong With the World? and What Can We Do About it?. It is about “human connectedness, happiness, and the human spirit”, and explores themes including Darwinism, Western mores, loneliness, the economy, and the drive to war. The documentary includes animated scenes explaining scientific concepts, as well as clips from the films Wall Street and It’s a Wonderful Life.

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