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87 Deeply Subversive Documentaries That Challenge the Status Quo

By Films For Action / filmsforaction.org
Jul 19, 2017
4.4 ·
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87 Deeply Subversive Documentaries That Challenge the Status Quo

Now that there are thousands of films on Films For Action, we realized the very best gems have really become buried all across our library, and for people new to this information, we needed a more guided way to dive in. Spread across 15 core themes, this collection aims to be that entry point. It is our attempt to curate the kind of crash-course curriculum on the state of the world we wish we had all got growing up, especially during high school and college, but didn't.

Sadly, you are not likely to see these documentaries in school, broadcast on television, or available on Netflix. The subversive nature of these films, which deeply challenge all aspects of the status quo, means that the internet is really the main avenue where these films are available. By collecting them all in one place, we hope they can be watched and shared widely, as they truly deserve to be. 

Enjoy the knowledge swim!

 

Economics


The Corporation (2003)
145 min · The Corporation is today's dominant institution, creating great wealth but also great harm. This 26 award-winning documentary examines the nature, evolution, impacts and future of the modern business corporation and the increasing role...
Money & Life (2013)
86 min · Money & Life is a passionate and inspirational essay-style documentary that asks a provocative question: can we see the economic crisis not as a disaster, but as a tremendous opportunity?   This cinematic odyssey connects the dots on...
The Economics of Happiness (2011)
65 min · Economic globalization has led to a massive expansion in the scale and power of big business and banking. It has also worsened nearly every problem we face: fundamentalism and ethnic conflict; climate chaos and species extinction...
Real Estate 4 Ransom: Why Does Land Cost the Earth? (2012)
39 min · REAL ESTATE 4 RAN$OM outlines a genuine alternative to the global property speculation that forced so many into debt. Doubling the pressure, the tax game has become just that, with tax havens a favoured option for the wealthy. The...
Plutocracy: Political Repression In The U.S.A. (2019)
560 min · Plutocracy is the first documentary to comprehensively examine early American history through the lens of class. A multi-part series by filmmaker Scott Noble, Part I focuses on the the ways in which the American people have historically...
Prout: Economic Democracy in Practice (2004)
30 min · Economics of Prout covers the basic economic principles of Prout, which offers a viable alternative to the materialistic, anti human philosophies of Capitalism and Communism.
Real Value (2013)
70 min · Award-winning filmmaker Jesse Borkowski delivers a refreshing meditation on how business can be used to create value beyond profit; connecting motivational stories from social entrepreneurs working in agriculture, apparel, insurance...
Money As Debt (2006)
47 min · This simple, low-fi video acts as an Economics 101 class for those of us who don't really understand the American system of money. If you'd like to know more about why and how the economy works watch this video.
Can We Do It Ourselves? (2015)
59 min · Within modern life exists a paradox: we celebrate democracy as a political system, but not as an economic system, even though our workplaces have a far greater impact on our day to day lives. It's fair to say that most workplaces under...
Enough Is Enough (2014)
18 min · Enough Is Enough lays out a visionary but realistic alternative to the perpetual pursuit of economic growth-an economy where the goal is enough, not more. “Based on the best-selling book by Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill, the film explores...

 

 

Education


Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th century when it forced Native American children into...
Education For a Sustainable Future (2012)
53 min · Education For a Sustainable Future presents information on how today's practices in schools are socially unsustainable. The documentary film critically analyses what is considered socially relevant in a new education system which brings...
The War on Kids (2009)
95 min · THE WAR ON KIDS is a 95 minute documentary that shows how American public schools continue to become more dangerously authoritarian. In addition to failing in their mission to educate effectively, they erode the country's democratic...
Class Dismissed (2004)
27 min · Class Dismissed provides a critical look at how U.S. history is taught in high school, at the myths that reduce the complexity of history into simple soundbites, and the information that never seems to make it onto the textbook pages...
Re-Learning the Land: a Story of Red Crow College (2015)
68 min · RE-LEARNING THE LAND is the story of a Blackfoot community in southern Alberta, Canada, and how they have re-taken control of their education system within Red Crow Community College. The film traces the decolonization of their learning...
Re-Learning Hope: a Story of Unitierra (2016)
70 min · RE-LEARNING HOPE is the story of Unitierra, an autonomous university in Oaxaca, Mexico that is immersed in, and has emerged from, the social and indigenous movements of the region. The film tells the story of this emergence of Unitierra...

 

 

Ecology


The Evolution of Ecological Consciousness (2013)
109 min · Permaculture designer Andrew Faust gives us an inspiring and heady narrative about the evolution of all life and human consciousness on Mother Earth.  For more info about the Center for Bioregional Living or to subscribe to the...
Ecological Learning Through Direct Experience (2015)
45 min · This is a documentary about getting out into the natural world and learning from the wisdom of land and people - focusing on how rewilding our perception might be the catalyst for the changes we wish to see in the world.
United Natures: a United Nations of all Species (2013)
103 min · United Natures explores the Rights of Mother Earth, Environmental Philosophy, Wisdom, Spirituality and the potential for a Neo-indigenous future for humanity. Directed and produced by Peter Charles Downey, who most recently made...
The Superior Human? (2012)
73 min · "The Superior Human?" systematically challenges the common human belief that humans are superior to all other life forms, which is often used as an excuse for animal cruelty and the destruction of our own environment. It reveals the...
Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective (2015)
92 min · Humanity is more than ever threatened by its own actions; we hear a lot about the need to minimize footprints and to reduce our impact. But what if our footprints were beneficial? What if we could meet human needs while increasing the...
The Nature of Cities (2010)
39 min · "The Nature Of Cities" follows the journey of Professor Timothy Beatley as he explores urban projects around the world, representing the new green movement that hopes to move our urban environments beyond sustainability to a...

 

 

Media Literacy


Rich Media, Poor Democracy (2003)
30 min · If a key indicator of the health of a democracy is the state of its journalism, the United States is in deep trouble. In Rich Media, Poor Democracy, Robert McChesney lays the blame for this state of affairs squarely at the doors of the...
The Myth of the Liberal Media: The Propaganda Model of News (1997) (Preview Quality)
59 min · Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky demolish one of the central tenets of our political culture, the idea of the "liberal media." Instead, utilizing a systematic model based on massive empirical research, they reveal the manner in which the...
Class Dismissed: How TV Frames the Working Class (2005)
64 min · Based on the book by Pepi Leistyna, Class Dismissed navigates the steady stream of narrow working class representations from American television's beginnings to today's sitcoms, reality shows, police dramas, and daytime talk...
Still Killing Us Softly: Advertising's Image of Women (1987)
32 min · Author Jean Kilbourne demonstrates the role that advertising plays as propaganda against women. To that point, we learn of the predominate belittling and sexualization of women, even stooping to depictions of violence and murder of...

 

 

Empire & Government


The Power Principle: Corporate Empire and the Rise of the National Security State (2012)
264 min · "A gripping, deeply informative account of the plunder, hypocrisy, and mass violence of plutocracy and empire; insightful, historically grounded and highly relevant to the events of today." - Michael Parenti, Historian, Author The Face...
Mark Corske's Engines of Domination (2014)
60 min · OUT NOW! NEW IMPROVED 2018 DIRECTOR'S CUT VERSION: WATCH IT HERE. Political power -- armed central authority, with states and war -- is it part of human nature? Is it necessary for human communities? Or is it a tool that ruling elites...
Oliver Stone: The Untold History Of The United States (2012)
570 min · There is a classified America we were never meant to see. From Academy Award®-winning writer/director Oliver Stone, this ten-part documentary series looks back at human events that at the time went under reported, but that crucially...
The Canary Effect: Kill the Indian, Save the Man (2006)
63 min · From multi-award winning directors Robin Davey and  Yellow Thunder Woman, comes this 'Illuminating Documentary' (Time Out). Delving deeply into the often misunderstood and frequently over looked historic realities of the American...
Human Resources: Social Engineering In The 20th Century (2010)
119 min · Human Resources explores the rise of mechanistic philosophy and the exploitation of human beings under modern hierarchical systems. Topics covered include behaviorism, scientific management, work-place democracy, schooling...
PsyWar: The Real Battlefield Is The Mind (2010)
99 min · This film explores the evolution of propaganda and public relations in the United States, with an emphasis on the "elitist theory of democracy" and the relationship between war, propaganda and class. "A deep, richly illustrated study...
The New Rulers of the World (2001)
52 min · 'The New Rulers Of The World analyzes the new global economy and reveals that the divisions between the rich and poor have never been greater - two thirds of the world's children live in poverty - and the gulf is widening like never...
Cointelpro 101 (2010)
56 min · COINTELPRO may not be a well-understood acronym but its meaning and continuing impact are absolutely central to understanding the government’s wars and repression against progressive movements. COINTELPRO represents the state’s strategy...

 

 

War


War Made Easy (2007)
70 min · War Made Easy reaches into the Orwellian memory hole to expose a 50-year pattern of government deception and media spin that has dragged the United States into one war after another from Vietnam to Iraq. Narrated by actor and activist...
The War You Don't See (2010)
98 min · A powerful and timely investigation into the media’s role in war, tracing the history of embedded and independent reporting from the carnage of World War One to the destruction of Hiroshima, and from the invasion of Vietnam to the...
What I've Learned About U.S. Foreign Policy (2000)
118 min · This is a powerful 10-part compilation that (in important ways) pulls aside the veil of Official myths and Lies about "freedom", "democracy", Human Rights, etc., being the basis of U.S. foreign policy.   SEGMENT 1 1. Martin Luther...
Peace, Propaganda And The Promised Land (2004)
79 min · Provides a striking comparison of U.S. and international media coverage of the crisis in the Middle East, zeroing in on how structural distortions in U.S. coverage have reinforced false perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict...
War By Other Means (1992)
52 min · John Pilger travels to many third world countries to investigate the devastating results of loans from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). This film shows how many wars today are not carried out at the barrel of a...

 

 

Drug Prohibition and Prisons


Law Enforcement Opposed to the War on Drugs (2006)
54 min · Cops and former cops who have put in decades fighting the war on drugs speak out against prohibition.
The House I Live In
108 min · As America remains embroiled in conflict overseas, a less visible war is taking place at home, costing countless lives, destroying families, and inflicting untold damage on future generations of Americans. Over the last forty years, the...

 

 

Community


Within Reach (2013)
87 min · Within Reach explores one couple's pedal-powered search for a place to call home. Mandy and Ryan gave up their jobs, cars, and traditional houses to 'bike-pack' 6500 miles around the USA seeking sustainable community. Rather than...
The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil (2006)
52 min · When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, Cuba's economy went into a tailspin. With imports of oil cut by more than half – and food by 80 percent – people were desperate. This film tells of the hardships and struggles as well as the...
The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community
51 min · David Korten’s inspiring and extensively-illustrated presentation of his new book The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community. David says we are at a defining moment in all of human history.  

 

 

Food


Dirt! The Movie (2009)
80 min · DIRT! The Movie takes you inside the wonders of the soil. It tells the story of Earth's most valuable and underappreciated source of fertility--from its miraculous beginning to its crippling degradation. The opening scenes of the film...
DIVE! Living Off America's Waste (2009)
53 min · Inspired by a curiosity about our country's careless habit of sending food straight to landfills, the multi award-winning documentary DIVE! follows filmmaker Jeremy Seifert and friends as they dumpster dive in the back alleys and gated...
Origins (2014)
101 min · This is a movie about how we have left the natural connection to the planet. The movie investigates how this has happened, the incredible amounts of pollutants that we are exposed to, even as a fetus, and the technology that can help...
In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto (2015)
115 min · Join best-selling author Michael Pollan (Food Rules, The Botany of Desire) on a fascinating journey to answer the question: What should I eat to be healthy? Cutting through confusion and busting myths and misconceptions, In Defense of...
Go Organic! (2007)
115 min · This series of films provide a refreshing education on the current state of agriculture, pointing out positive sustainable and organic practices that you can take part in. The Meatrix and Frankensteer expose the ways of unethical...

 

 

Democracy & Politics


Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas (2008)
95 min · From Venezuela's Communal Councils, to Brazil's Participatory Budgeting; from Constitutional Assemblies to grassroots movements, recuperated factories to cooperatives across the hemisphere -- this documentary is a journey, which takes...
Lifting the Veil:  Obama and the Failure of Capitalist Democracy (2011)
114 min · This film explores the historical role of the Democratic Party as the "graveyard of social movements", the massive influence of corporate finance in elections, the absurd disparities of wealth in the United States, the continuity and...
The Evilness of Power (2008)
92 min · THE EVILNESS OF POWER examines the ways in which power and hierarchy affect individuals, society, and the world at large. It's possibly the best film on the subject ever made.  Produced by Jonathan Shockley.
We the People 2.0
91 min · We the People is a visual essay about the loss of democracy in the United States. The film utillizes both original footage as well as found footage to describe a profound change in thinking at the grassroots level. The story unfolds...
Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Politics (2009)
87 min · The definitive documentary explaining the influence of money on politics by Jonathan Shockley. If you like it, consider buying the high quality DVD or donating a few $ at http://goldenruledocumentary.blogspot.com/ This film is based...

 

 

Culture


Human (2015)
382 min · What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight? That we laugh? Cry? Our curiosity? The quest for discovery?  Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist Yann Arthus-Bertrand spent three years collecting real-life...
Race: The Power of An Illusion (2003)
180 min · The division of the world's peoples into distinct groups - "red," "black," "white" or "yellow" peoples - has became so deeply embedded in our psyches, so widely accepted, many would promptly dismiss as crazy any suggestion of its...

 

 

Consumerism


The Century of the Self (2002)
230 min · The Century of the Self tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests? (Includes all parts of this multi-part...
Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood (2008)
66 min · Consuming Kids throws desperately needed light on the practices of a relentless multi-billion dollar marketing machine that now sells kids and their parents everything from junk food and violent video games to bogus educational products...
Affluenza (1997)
56 min · AFFLUENZA is a groundbreaking film that diagnoses a serious social disease - caused by consumerism, commercialism and rampant materialism - that is having a devastating impact on our families, communities, and the environment. We have...
Escape! From the Cult of Materialism (2016)
50 min · Does the philosophy of materialism work to destroy our identities, experience, and environment? Join narrator Daphne Ellis on a radical romp through the evidence and decide for yourself if you're in the cult and need to escape!​

 

 

The Big Picture


Crossroads: Labor Pains of a New Worldview (2013)
65 min · Crossroads: Labor Pains of a New Worldview is a documentary exploring the depths of the current human condition and the emergence of a worldview that is recreating our world from the inside out. Weaving together insights and findings...
The Crisis of Civilization (2011)
87 min · A dark comedy remix mash-up bonanza about the end of industrial civilization. featuring clowns, car crashes, explosions, super heroes, and xylophones and much, much more ..... Based on the Book by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed Directed by Dean...
Fall and Winter (2013)
102 min · This stunning film takes you on a hypnotic journey, reaching to the past to understand the origins of the catastrophic environmental transitions we now face. Over two years, director Matt Anderson traveled 16,000 miles to document...
Zeitgeist: Moving Forward (2011)
162 min · A feature length documentary by Peter Joseph that presents the case for a needed transition out of the current socioeconomic monetary paradigm which governs the entire world society. The film intends to transcend the issues of cultural...
The Choice Is Ours (2016)
59 min · This film series explores many aspects of our society. To rethink what is possible in our world, we need to consider what kind of world we want to live in. Although we refer to it as civilization, it is anything but civilized. Visions...
Paradise or Oblivion (2012)
48 min · A free online documentary created by The Venus Project, which examines the root causes of the systemic value disorders and detrimental symptoms caused by our current established system. This video presentation advocates a new...

 

 

Wisdom


A New Story for Humanity (2016)
102 min · A New Story For Humanity presents a beautifully and sensitively woven tapestry of the rich diversity that is the human family. Featuring interviews on the essential topics of our time: from cosmology to ecology, from ancient wisdom to...
The Global Brain: Peter Russell (1983)
35 min · Peter Russell’s award-winning video, based on a live audio-visual presentation in 1983. He explores the idea that the Earth is an integrated, self-regulating living organism and asks what function humanity might have for this planetary...
Awakening the Dreamer: Changing the Dream (2011)
90 min · Wake up to your own role in creating a new future. This new perspective of the current state of our planet features top scientific, indigenous and activist minds from around the world. Now available for the first-time ever on video...
A Quest For Meaning (2017)
87 min · A Quest for Meaning is an inspiring journey that connects personal growth and social change. It tells the story of two friends, Marc and Nathanael, who leave everything behind to go question the workings of the world and look for...
PLANETARY  (2015)
81 min · We are in the midst of a global crisis of perspective. We have forgotten the undeniable truth that everything is connected. PLANETARY is a provocative and breathtaking wakeup call, a cross continental, cinematic journey, that explores...

 

 

Designing The Future


A Simpler Way: Crisis as Opportunity (2016)
79 min · A Simpler Way: Crisis as Opportunity is a feature-length documentary that follows a community in Australia who came together to explore and demonstrate a simpler way to live in response to global crises. Throughout the year the group...
Occupy Love (2013)
85 min · Join acclaimed director Velcrow Ripper on a journey deep inside the global revolution of the heart that is erupting around the planet. Humanity is waking up to the fact that the dominant system of power is failing to provide us with...
In Transition 2.0: A Story of Resilience & Hope in Extraordinary Times (2012)
66 min · This film is an inspirational immersion in the Transition movement, gathering stories from around the world of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. There are stories of communities printing their own money, growing food...
Tomorrow: Take Concrete Steps To A Sustainable Future
120 min · “Without question, this is absolutely the best and most creative film on the future of humanity and the environment”. — Paul Hawken TODAY, we sometimes feel powerless in front of the various crises of our times. TODAY, we know that...
Singapore: Biophilic City (2012)
44 min · A whirlwind week in Singapore exploring the amazing story of how Singapore came to be one of the most 'biophilic' cities of the world, on the cutting edge of ecocity design and innovation. Did you have any idea? There has been...
First Earth: Uncompromising Ecological Architecture (2010)
90 min · FIRST EARTH is a documentary about the movement towards a massive paradigm shift for shelter -- building healthy houses in the old ways, out of the very earth itself, and living together like in the old days, by recreating villages. It...
Freedom Ahead (2012)
60 min · Never before in known history have so many people relied on so few for the basic essentials of life. In our present-day democracies, freedom is slowly being commodified. We have been giving our democratic governments more and more...
Seeds of Permaculture: If It's Beautiful, It's Better (2013)
88 min · An interactive film about permaculture in the tropics, with education and inspiration as the main threads running through this hour-and-a-half-documentary. We remind you subtitles are available! Visit http://www.seedsofpermaculture.org...
Together: How Cooperatives Show Resilience to the Crisis (2012)
39 min · It’s a fact. In Europe, 1.5 million workers co-own their enterprises. They are called worker cooperatives, social cooperatives or participative enterprises. The documentary TOGETHER reveals, through extensive research and exclusive...
Creating Prosperous Communities: Examples of Small-Scale Cooperatives in Maleny (2002)
33 min · A video about the many cooperatives in Maleny, Australia, and the beneficial effects they have on the local community. It includes interviews with people from the Maleny Credit Union, the health food store, environmental coops and the...
Not Business As Usual (2014)
61 min · Not Business As Usual is a provocative look at capitalism and its unintended price of success. The film tracks the changing landscape of business with the rising tide of conscious capitalism through the stories of local entrepreneurs...
A Passion For Sustainability (2008)
56 min · Envision a society where economic opportunity, social justice and sustainable culture all spring from environmental stewardship. Imagine a world where nurturing the health of the planet is the catalyst for global financial success and...
Waste = Food (2007)
49 min · Man is the only creature that produces landfills. Natural resources are being depleted on a rapid scale while production and consumption are rising in na­tions like China and India. The waste production world wide is enormous and if we...
2012: Time For Change (2010)
85 min · "2012: Time for Change" presents an optimistic alternative to apocalyptic doom and gloom. Directed by Emmy Award nominee João Amorim, the film follows journalist Daniel Pinchbeck, author of the bestselling 2012: The Return of...

 

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