Smoke and Fumes: The Climate Change Cover-Up (directed by Johan von Mirbach)
“For me, this is the biggest scandal in human history.” Any documentary featuring these words, spoken by a high-ranking environmental lawyer in Washington, demands our attention. And this vital film exposes six decades of climate change cover-up, revealing how huge corporations funded campaigns and scientific studies tasked with talking down the climate emergency. Since 1957 companies such as Exxon and Shell have known that burning fossil fuels sparks climate change. As well as suppressing this information, they actively prepared for a warmer world – building oil rigs to withstand rising sea levels and Arctic pipelines to withstand melting permafrost. Taking the story from the 1950s right up to the Trump presidency, this film exposes why climate change denial remains big business, and how climate change deniers became so entrenched in their worldview.
The World According to Amazon (directed by Thomas Lafarge and Adrien Pinon)
Many of us have relied on Amazon more than ever during lockdown – but what is life like inside the global empire that has revolutionised the world economy? This documentary, launched on Black Friday in 2019, explores both Amazon’s business model and its impact on the way we live, work and spend. A rare peek inside the world Jeff Bezos built – a global store that sends out more than five billion parcels a year – from its inception in a suburban garage in post-grunge Seattle in 1994 dispatching 20 books a day to total global domination in just a quarter of a century.
A Revolution in Four Seasons (directed by Jessie Deeter)
This film won Best Documentary at the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival for its depiction of two women fighting on opposite sides of the political debate in Tunisia, the country that sparked the Arab Spring. The political and social stakes are high as journalist Emna Ben Jemaa campaigns for a country of free speech without corruption. Her work is contrasted with Jawhara Ettis of the Islamist Party Ennahda. Both must navigate tough choices between their home lives and political work, wary of the way women are treated in Tunisian society, but desperate for a democratic future for the country they love. A fascinating account, showing that we can still find so much in common with our political adversaries.
Epidemics: The Invisible Threat (directed by Anne Poiret and Raphaël Hitier)
This 2015 film asking when a new global epidemic might strike and pointing at emerging evidence that one may be imminent could feel outdated. But its importance soon becomes apparent, in detailing the rapidly increasing emergence of new viruses, the threat they pose, the role of the WHO, and questioning whether we are any better prepared than when other viruses emerged, such as Spanish flu, smallpox or, more recently, Aids (which has killed more than 30 million people). By focusing on Sars, avian flu and Mers-CoV (a form of coronavirus that originated in bats), this shows what we knew five years before the Covid-19 pandemic, which marks it out as a vital primer or prequel to recent events, made without the benefit of hindsight.
Meeting Snowden (directed by Flore Vasseur)
What happened when Edward Snowden, exiled US whistleblower, met civil rights campaigners Birgitta Jónsdóttir and Larry Lessig in a downbeat hotel room? A fascinating discussion about the drama that followed Snowden’s leak of the biggest mass surveillance scandal of the century and, more importantly, the future of democracy across the world. As Snowden himself argues: “If we work together, we can create bonds between human hearts and minds that can unite into something that is bigger than any government.”
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