How does government really operate behind the scenes? Beyond all the slogans about freedom and democracy, how does our political system really work?
Pretty much everyone is aware to some extent how corrupt and dysfunctional the US political system has become. "Has become" is a bit misleading though. As several of these films will show, there was no true 'golden age' of American politics. Those who "want to make America great again" will find that the true history of America doesn't exactly offer shining models to go back to. And those who are generally aware of the troubling aspects of our past and present will be shocked to discover just how bad and crazy it gets. It's the depths and the degree that most people still aren't aware of.
We all see the surface level, the shiny sheen as prevented on TV, but the hard-hitting, behind-the-scenes investigative reports somehow never make it on the air, or curiously, into the classroom textbooks. It's no coincidence that most of the films below have never been aired on primetime television, and are accessible today only thanks to the decentralized and open internet.
As I reviewed Films For Action's library of films to make this list, it made me reflect on my own journey to discover this knowledge. I was in my early twenties when I started discovering documentaries like these on the internet, exposing me to a world of information that had never been shown to me by my school, parents, friends, local news or the corporate media. Like most kids growing up in the US, my exposure to 'the boring' news was limited to what I saw on network television and what my teachers brought up in school.
What I discovered as I started to watch many of these films is that 'the news,' especially political news, is anything but boring - I just needed to tap into media that told the truth and wasn't whitewashed, commercialized and sanitized into oblivion.
It was pretty thrilling coming across these films for the first time. It felt like coming across some undiscovered treasure. Back then (2002-2005), youtube didn't exist yet, and documentaries were just starting to show up on google video. Buying DVDs was still the most accessible option. It took a lot of time to just find information like this at all, and it was usually scattered across the internet on obscure websites made by individuals who just really gave a damn.
The difficulty in scouring the internet for quality 'films for action' was one of the primary reasons a few friends and I launched the Films For Action website back in 2007. We wanted to create a library that put all of the best social change documentaries in one place. Accessibility was key. Our goal was to save people the hundreds of hours we were spending reviewing films so that we could present a high-quality library that people could dive into with ease, whether they were young and new to the info like we once were, or pretty knowledgeable but looking to go deeper. There's always more to learn.
Today, social change films have surged in popularity and accessibility. There are over 800 on this website alone, hand-picked among thousands, all mostly free to watch, with a handful that are PPV.
Now, beyond accessibility, filtering 'the best of the best' has become its own challenge. In the age of unprecedented knowledge (both superficial and deep), curating the best of what's on this website is what I've started to focus more of my time on.
I hope you find this collection of films to be valuable in your pursuit of understanding the world and the way our political system really works. I can only imagine how amazing it would have been to come across this list when I was 21 - to have at my fingertips in minutes what took me hundreds of hours to discover on my own. Perhaps there's some benefit to having had to 'do it the hard way,' wading through vast expanses of videos to find really quality information, but, probably not.
For those who are interested in that, there's always the rest of this site (with a minimum quality standard, of course).
And who knows, maybe some day, this information won't be so hard to come by. Maybe, with your help, we'll start seeing this information showing up in our school curriculum, on TV, in magazines, and in more and more websites whose profits aren't threatened by telling the truth.
The last 6 offer a glimpse of how people in other countries are mobilizing to take back control of their governments, their lives, and make 'democracy' mean something again.