We’ve compiled a list of the best films recommended by our staff and local coordinators. Many of them tell heart-wrenching, transformational stories while others are classic reminders of oppression. So pop some popcorn, get cozy and enjoy. Let there be peace, love, compassion, and equality.
War on Whistleblowers
War on Whistleblowers highlights the stories of four whistleblowers who noticed government wrong-doing and turned to the media to expose the abuse they discovered. In addition to their personal accounts, the film includes interviews with journalists and legal experts sharing their knowledge of the challenges whistleblowers face today.
The War on Journalism: The Case of Julian Assange
Journalists are under attack globally for doing their jobs. Julian Assange is facing a 175 year sentence for publishing if extradited to the United States. The Trump administration has gone from denigrating journalists as ‘enemies of the people’ to now criminalizing common practices in journalism that have long served the public interest. Imprisoned WikiLeaks founder and editor Assange’s extradition is being sought by the Trump administration, in a hearing to begin Sept. 7, for publishing U.S. government documents, which exposed war crimes and human rights abuses. He is being held in maximum security HMP Belmarsh in London. There is a war on journalism and Julian Assange is at the centre of that war. If this precedent is set then what happens to Assange can happen to any journalist.
CITIZENFOUR is a real life thriller, unfolding by the minute, giving audiences unprecedented access to filmmaker Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald’s encounters with Edward Snowden in Hong Kong, as he hands over classified documents providing evidence of mass indiscriminate and illegal invasions of privacy by the National Security Agency (NSA). Winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary Film.
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (NR, 93 mins)
In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg, a leading Vietnam War strategist, concludes that America’s role in the war is based on decades of lies. He leaks 7,000 pages of top-secret documents to The New York Times, a daring act of conscience that leads directly to Watergate, President Nixon’s resignation and the end of the Vietnam War.
Brainwashing of my Dad (NR, 90 mins)
As filmmaker, Jen Senko, tries to understand the transformation of her father from a non-political, life-long Democrat to an angry, right-wing fanatic, she uncovers the forces behind the media that changed him completely: a plan by Roger Ailes under Nixon for a media takeover by the GOP, the Powell Memo urging business leaders to influence institutions of public opinion, especially the universities, the media and the courts, and under Reagan, the dismantling of the Fairness Doctrine. As her journey continues, we discover that her father is part of a much broader demographic and that the story is one that affects us all.
US Criminal Justice System, Prison Industrial Complex
13th is a 2016 American documentary film by director Ava DuVernay. The film explores the "intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States;" it is titled after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted in 1865, which abolished slavery throughout the United States and ended involuntary servitude except as a punishment for conviction of a crime. DuVernay contends that slavery has been perpetuated since the end of the American Civil War through criminalizing behavior and enabling police to arrest poor freedmen and force them to work for the state under convict leasing; suppression of African Americans by disenfranchisement, lynchings, and Jim Crow; politicians declaring a war on drugs that weighs more heavily on minority communities and, by the late 20th century, mass incarceration of people of color in the United States. She examines the prison-industrial complex and the emerging detention-industrial complex, discussing how much money is being made by corporations from such incarcerations.
The Art of Incarceration (1hr 21min)
Seen through the eyes of Indigenous prisoners at Victoria's Fulham Correctional Centre, The Art of Incarceration explores how art and culture can empower First Nations people to transcend their unjust cycles of imprisonment.
Embargo (NR, 85 mins)
Embargo chronicles the journey of American citizen Jeri Rice's quest for truth beginning with a rare meeting with Cuban Premier Fidel Castro in 2002 when the Communist leader tells her the utopia he tried to create had failed, and he was unable to fix it. Rice sets out to find out why her country's unprecedented embargo of Cuba has persisted unabated long after the Cold War decades that marked an era of enmity between the two nations only 90 miles apart.
Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up? (NR, 80 mins)
In Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up? filmmaker Saul Landau chronicles half a century of hostile relations between the United States and Cuba. By telling the story of the “Cuban five,” intelligence agents sent to penetrate Cuban exile terrorist groups in Miami and now serving long prison sentences, the film highlights decades of assassination and sabotage at first backed by Washington and then ignored by the same government that launched a “war on terror.” The film, which features Danny Glover and 84-year-old Fidel Castro in key scenes, seeks to ultimately answer the question: what did Cuba do to deserve such hostile treatment from the American government?
The Wasp Network
Available on Netflix
The film Wasp Network, based on the book The Last Soldiers of the Cold War, The Story of the Cuban Five by Fernando Morais, is a co-production between France, Spain, Belgium and Brazil. You can now watch it on Netflix. It is not a film on the Cuban Five. It is a story of three of the Cubans who infiltrated the Miami network of terrorist groups dedicated to destroying the Cuban socialist system. The story focuses on Rene Gonzalez, with Geraldo Hernandez receiving less attention. The other three of the Cuban Five heroes, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, and Fernando González, are barely mentioned. Nor is their trial, nor their years in US prisons. While the movie certainly contains some standard anti-communist propaganda, required for “credibility,” it mostly portrays the Wasp Network’s thwarting of the operations of Miami terrorist groups. The Miami Cuban rightwing groups, the Cuban American National Foundation being the most significant, were involved in drug running, hotel bombings and armed attacks in Cuba, and attempted assassinations of Fidel Castro.
Fresas y Chocolate
Set in 1979, following a young Communist man’s relationship with a gay Catholic writer, exploring tolerance, inclusion, homophobia and great humour. Based on the short story by Cuban writer Senel Paz.
Unmanned: America's Drone Wars (NR, 60 mins)
In Unmanned: America's Drone Wars, the eighth full-length feature documentary from Brave New Films, director Robert Greenwald investigates the impact of U.S. drone strikes at home and abroad through more than 70 separate interviews, including a former American drone operator who shares what he has witnessed in his own words, Pakistani families mourning loved ones and seeking legal redress, investigative journalists pursuing the truth, and top military officials warning against blowback from the loss of innocent life.
Drone (NR, 79 mins)
The documentary is about the role that drones play in war, showing what really happens and demonstrating how cold drone warfare truly is.
Available for free streaming on YouTube.
National Bird ( NR, 92 mins)
National Bird follows the dramatic journey of three whistleblowers who are determined to break the silence around one of the most controversial current affairs issues of our time: the secret U.S. drone war. At the center of the film are three U.S. military veterans. Plagued by guilt over participating in the killing of faceless people in foreign countries, they decide to speak out publicly, despite the possible consequences. Their stories take dramatic turns, leading one of the protagonists to Afghanistan where she learns about a horrendous incident. But her journey also gives hope for peace and redemption. Masterminded by filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck, the film gives a rare insight into the U.S. drone program through the eyes of veterans and survivors, connecting their stories as never seen before in a documentary. Its images haunt the audience and bring a faraway issue close to home.
Watch the trailer here, and the film will be in theaters this fall!
F-35, the Jet that Ate the Pentagon (NR, 8 mins)
F-35, The Jet that Ate the Pentagon, was released to draw attention to the massive amounts of money defense contractors are receiving for a jet plane which hasn’t been delivered on time and is $397 billion over budget. In fact, it’s been so poorly designed that the Pentagon has had to temporarily ground the plane no fewer than 13 times since 2007.
The Square (NR, 108 mins)
'The Square' is an intimate observational documentary that tells the real story of the ongoing struggle of the Egyptian Revolution through the eyes of six very different protesters. Starting in the tents of Tahrir in the days leading up to the fall of Mubarak, we follow our characters on a life-changing journey through the euphoria of victory into the uncertainties and dangers of the current 'transitional period' under military rule, where everything they fought for is now under threat or in balance.
Feminism and Gender
Dead Woman’s Pass: A Ni Una Menos Story on the Inca Trail
Maxi Manuttupa, a single mother and indigenous woman from Cusco, Peru, flees her abusive husband and struggles to earn enough money to support her children’s education. Determined to reclaim her independence and future, she seeks to become a porter for tourists on Machu Picchu’s Inca Trail. It’s a role few women have managed to break into and an impressive feat for a woman who had never before set eyes on her world-renowned ancestral home.
Since the coronavirus lockdown began in Peru, more than 900 women and girls have gone missing and experts say that intimate partner violence, already a deeply rooted problem in the country, has been made worse under the pandemic. Dead Woman’s Pass, an award-winning documentary directed by Lali Houghton and produced by Poh Si Teng, tells the story of one woman’s battle to overcome decades of violence.
Guantanamo: Blacked Out Bay(NR, 27 mins)
Vice News reporter Gianna Toboni is granted a rare tour of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center (GTMO) in Cuba, offering a look inside the most notorious prison in the world. Intended to home the greatest active terrorist threats, it is instead known for imprisoning foreigners at random and subjecting them to dehumanizing conditions.
The Road to Guantanamo (NR, 95 mins)
Part drama, part documentary, The Road to Guantánamo focuses on the Tipton Three, a trio of British Muslims who were held in Guantanamo Bay for two years until they were released without charge.
The Mauritanian (129 minutes)
Based on a true story, The Mauritanian follows attorney Nancy Hollander, her associate and a military prosecutor who uncover a far-reaching conspiracy while investigating the case of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, tortured over 3 years during the Bush administration, and unjustly imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for fourteen years. Watch the trailer here and sign our letter to Biden asking him to close Guantánamo!
Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States
The Untold History of the United States (also known as Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States) is a 2012 documentary series created, directed, produced, and narrated by Oliver Stone about the reasons behind the Cold War, the decision to drop the atomic bombs, and changes in America's global role since the fall of Communism.
Iran is Not the Problem (NR, 79 mins)
This film is a response to the failure of the American mass media to provide the public with relevant and accurate information about the standoff between the US and Iran, as happened before with the lead up to the invasion of Iraq. We have heard that Iran is a nuclear menace in defiance of the international community, bent on "wiping Israel off the map", supporting terrorism, and unwilling to negotiate. This documentary disputes these claims as they are presented to us and puts them in the context of present and historical US imperialism and hypocrisy with respect to Iran. It looks at the struggle for democracy inside Iran, the consequences of the current escalation and the potential US and/or Israeli attack, and suggests some alternatives to consider.
We Are Many
The never-before-told story of the largest demonstration in human history, and how the movement created by a small band of activists changed the world, which includes CODEPINK's very own Medea Benjamin.
Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers (NR, 75 mins)
Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers, is the story of what happens to everyday Americans when corporations go to war. Acclaimed director Robert Greenwald takes you inside the lives of soldiers, truck drivers, widows and children who have been changed forever as a result of profiteering in the reconstruction of Iraq. Iraq for Sale uncovers the connections between private corporations making a killing in Iraq (Blackwater, Halliburton/KBR, CACI, and Titan) and the decision makers who allow them to do so.
Uncovered: The War on Iraq (NR, 87 mins)
Uncovered: The War on Iraq is a 2004 documentary film directed by Robert Greenwald that builds the case that the George W. Bush’s administration intentionally deceived the American people in order to justify going to war in Iraq in 2003.
My Country, My Country (NR, 90 mins)
Filmed over the course of 8 months in Baghdad by famed filmmaker Laura Poitras, My Country, My Country tells the story of Dr. Riyadh, an Iraqi doctor, father of six and Sunni political candidate. An outspoken critic of the U.S. occupation, he is equally passionate about the need to establish democracy in Iraq, arguing that Sunni participation in the January 2005 elections is essential. Yet all around him, Dr. Riyadh sees only chaos, as his waiting room fills each day with patients suffering the physical and mental effects of ever-increasing violence. Dramatically interwoven into the personal journey of Dr. Riyadh is the landscape of the US military occupation, private security contractors, American journalists and the UN officials who orchestrate the elections.
Voices of Iraq (NR, 80 mins)
The people of Iraq tell their amazing stories in this fascinating and important documentary which gives Iraqi men and women the chance to describe in their own words their years under Saddam Hussein and their struggle to create their own stable society in a period of appalling violence. Producers Eric Manes Archie Drury and Martin Kunert distributed 150 digital video cameras to Iraqis all over the country and the resulting 400 hours of footage includes powerful testimony from sheiks and insurgents mothers and children and everyday workers each discussing their perspective, hopes, and daily lives.
The War You Don’t See
‘Selling’ the 2003 invasion of Iraq is the centerpiece of Pilger's film. The news media is exposed as a source of illusions, such as a non-existent link between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of 9/11. A CIA witness says the primary aim of intelligence supplied by the Pentagon is to manipulate public opinion. In a series of remarkable interviews, prominent journalists in Britain and the United agree that, had they and their colleagues challenged rather than amplified and echoed the deceptions of their governments, the invasion of Iraq might not have happened.
Local Peace Economy
Documentary Archive from CommunityWealth.Org
An exciting movement towards new cooperative business models and community wealth building strategies is gaining momentum and recognition, and there is a veritable bumper crop of recent documentary films testifying to this new interest in the new economy. As communities throughout the country innovate and cooperative businesses develop and flourish despite a struggling economy, these films offer a compelling portrait of an alternative vision. Community-Wealth.Org provides an archive of compelling documentaries about the cooperative movement.
The Economics of Happiness (NR, 68 mins)
The Economics of Happiness describes a world moving simultaneously in two opposing directions. On the one hand, government and big business continue to promote globalization and the consolidation of corporate power. At the same time, people around the world are resisting those policies – and, far from the old institutions of power, they’re starting to forge a very different future. Communities are coming together to re-build more human scale, ecological economies based on a new paradigm – an economics of localization.
Command and Control (NR, 92 mins)
A chilling nightmare plays out at a Titan II missile complex in Arkansas in September, 1980. A worker accidentally drops a socket, puncturing the fuel tank of an intercontinental ballistic missile carrying the most powerful nuclear warhead in our arsenal, an incident which ignites a series of feverish efforts to avoid a deadly disaster. Directed by Robert Kenner (FOOD, INC.) and based on the critically acclaimed book by Eric Schlosser (FAST FOOD NATION), COMMAND AND CONTROL is a minute-by-minute account of this long-hidden story. Putting a camera where there was no camera that night, Kenner brings this nonfiction thriller to life with stunning original footage shot in a decommissioned Titan II missile silo. Eyewitness accounts — from the man who dropped the socket, to the man who designed the warhead, to the Secretary of Defense— chronicle nine hours of terror that prevented an explosion 600 times more powerful than Hiroshima.
Gaza Fights For Freedom
This debut feature film by Abby Martin, in collaboration with Palestinian journalists, shows you Gaza’s protest movement like you’ve never seen before. Filmed during the height of the Great March of Return protests, it features riveting footage of the ongoing demonstrations against the Israeli siege. The documentary tells the story of Gaza past and present, showing rare archival footage that explains the history never acknowledged by mass media. You hear from victims of the sniper massacre, including journalists, medics and the family of internationally-acclaimed paramedic Razal al-Najjar. At its core, GAZA FIGHTS FOR FREEDOM is a comprehensive indictment of the Israeli military for war crimes, and a stunning cinematic portrayal of Palestinians’ heroic resistance.
Where Should the Birds Fly (NR, 58 mins)
Where Should the Birds Fly is the first film about Gaza made by Palestinians living the reality of Israel’s siege and blockade of this tiny enclave. It is the story of two young women, survivors of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead. Mona Samouni, now 12 years old and the filmmaker, Fida Qishta, now 27, represent the spirit and future of Palestinians.The film is a visual documentation of the Goldstone Report. But it is so much more. It reveals the strength and hope, the humanity and humor that flourishes among the people of Gaza. Few films document so powerfully and personally the impact of modern warfare and sanctions on a civilian population.The film itself breaks the blockade. Filmmakers in Gaza have never had the opportunity to make a full-length, professional documentary of their reality. Fida Qishta, born and raised in Rafah, Gaza, began her filmmaking career as a wedding videographer, and soon moved on to working with international human rights observers in Gaza, documenting day to day life under siege. Her commentary on the siege was published in The International Herald Tribune. Her video reports of Operation Cast Lead were published widely including in the UK newspaper The Guardian and in their weekly news magazine, The Observer.
5 Broken Cameras (NR, 94 mins)
5 Broken Cameras is a first-hand account of protests in Bil'in, a West Bank village affected by the Israeli West Bank barrier. The documentary was shot almost entirely by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005 to record the birth of his youngest son. In 2009 Israeli co-director Guy Davidi joined the project. Structured around the destruction of Burnat's cameras, the filmmakers' collaboration follows one family's evolution over five years of turmoil.
This film is available for streaming on Hulu and Netflix, and can be purchased on iTunes and Amazon Video.
The Occupation of the American Mind (NR, 85 mins)
Narrated by legendary musician and activist Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame and featuring leading experts on American media, the film looks at efforts by the Israeli government, the U.S. government, and pro-Israel pressure groups to shape positive news coverage of Israel and deflect attention away from its prolonged military occupation of Palestinian territory.
Farha (1 hr 31min)
After persuading her father to continue her education in the city, a Palestinian girl's dream is shattered by the harrowing developments of the Nakba.
Bitter Lake (NR, 140 mins)
Bitter Lake is a new, adventurous and epic film by Adam Curtis that explains why the big stories that politicians tell us have become so simplified that we can’t really see the world any longer.
The narrative goes all over the world, America, Britain, Russia and Saudi Arabia - but the country at the heart of it is Afghanistan. Because Afghanistan is the place that has confronted our politicians with the terrible truth - that they cannot understand what is going on any longer.
The film reveals the forces that over the past thirty years rose up and undermined the confidence of politics to understand the world. And it shows the strange, dark role that Saudi Arabia has played in this.
The Real House of Saud (NR, 27 mins)
In this episode of The Empire Files, host Abby Martin turns a sharp eye towards the United States' relationship with Saudi Arabia and delivers an alarming overview of the country's poor track record with regards to human rights violations.
Stop U.S. Military Bases
Standing Army (NR, 78 mins)
Over the course of the last century, the US has silently encircled the world with a web of military bases unlike any other in history. No continent is spared. They have shaped the lives of millions, yet remain a mystery to most. Standing Army explores historical displacement of native populations, including Italy, on Diego Garcia (an Indian Ocean island) and the Middle East. The film posits that while the traditional definition of the term empire means possession of colonies, the foundation of an "American empire" is based on a worldwide network of military bases. Featuring Gore Vidal and Noam Chomsky.
The Afterburn (NR, 148 mins)
Directed by American John Junkerman, long-term resident of Japan and Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker, the brand-new Okinawa: The Afterburn is a sweeping, in-depth look at the wartime and postwar history of Okinawa and the massive American military presence on the island. Consisting of interviews and rare archival footage on the 1945 Battle of Okinawa, the 27-year American occupation and the ongoing struggles of the local people up until the present, the film is a powerful statement on the historical background and complex reality of US bases on Okinawa, an issue that remains highly controversial on both the island itself and in mainland Japan. Screened three times daily at Jinbocho's Iwanami Hall, the film offers a through introduction to one of modern Japan's most pressing political issues.
The Boys Who Said No
Over the past 200 years, nonviolent direct action movements in the United States fought to abolish slavery, win women’s rights, and advance civil rights, equality, disarmament, and peace. In that tradition, tens of thousands of young people during the 1960s and 70s followed their consciences and actively refused to cooperate with the draft and the Vietnam War. The government sentenced 3,200 draft resisters – who publicly refused to register, or to go when drafted — to prison for up to five years. What impact did the sacrifice and imprisonment of these young men have on their lives, on society, and on the war, and what are the lessons for today? We tell their stories in The Boys Who Said NO! through interviews, re-creations, and archival footage.
War and Militarism
Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill travels to Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and other countries where the United States has taken military action in the War on Terror. In Afghanistan, he investigates the United States military and government cover-up of the deaths of five civilians, including two pregnant women killed by US soldiers from the Joint Special Operations Command. After investigating the attack, Scahill travels to other sites of JSOC intervention, interviewing both proponents and opponents, and the survivors, of such raids, including U.S. Senator Ron Wyden. Scahill also investigates the assassinations of American citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and his son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, meeting with their family at their home in Yemen. Scahill suggests that the War on Terror is in fact a "self-fulfilling prophecy" and causes the radicalization of Muslims. He also discusses the case of Yemeni investigative journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye who was detained, tried and sentenced on terrorism-related charges after reporting on American drone strikes.
The Banshees of Inisherin
From writer-director Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) comes a unique film starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. Although Pádraic (Farrell) and Colm (Gleeson) have been lifelong friends, they find themselves at an impasse when one abruptly ends their relationship, bringing alarming consequences for both of them.
Some theorized that Colm and Pádraic's conflict is a metaphor for the Irish civil war. This would make sense as neighbor turned on neighbor without warning during the war. There was some mention of a military conflict throughout the film, so McDonagh might've been leading the audience in that direction.