In Debt We Trust: America Before the Bubble Bursts

This hard-hitting documentary from Emmy Award-winning producer Danny Schechter explores why so many Americans, young people in particular, are being strangled by consumer debt. Burrowing deep into the politics and economics of American debt culture, Schechter argues that the mall has replaced the factory as America's dominant economic engine, exposes a system operating on borrowed money and borrowed time, and clarifies why so many college students are being forced to pay exorbitant interest on loans while graduating, on average, tens of thousands of dollars in debt. 

Sections: Introduction | The Credit Card Crusader | How the Companies Operate | The Marketing Machine | How Did We Get Into This Mess? | A Nation Transformed | The Crunch is Coming | Bankruptcy Blues | The Politics of Credit | Predators at Work | What Must Be Done?

Filmmaker Danny Schecter  Running Time 52 min Production Year 2006 Language English

"A compelling chronicle of how we got in over our heads... it should be required viewing for all high school and college students..."
- Erica Freudenberber | WoodStock Times


Default: The Student Loan Documentary

Just a few years after the subprime mortgage crisis, there are ominous signs that the student loan market is on the verge of collapsing, yet another casualty of predatory lending practices. Default brings this perilous situation into sharp relief, chronicling the stories of borrowers who find themselves in the paralyzing predicament of having to repay far more than what they borrowed -- with no bankruptcy protection, and no recourse under the law. The result is at once an accessible analysis of a mounting economic crisis, and a cautionary tale for students. 

Filmmaker Aurora Meneghello Running Time 27 mins Production Year 2012 Language English

"Default forcefully underscores the failure of our political system to deliver on the promise of affordable higher education for all Americans and brings home the life-changing personal consequences of predatory lending in the private student loan industry."
- Amy Traub | Senior Policy Analyst, DEMOS


Plunder: The Crime of Our Time

Exposing the forces responsible for the loss of trillions of dollars, millions of jobs, massive foreclosures and the disappearance of retirement funds, Plunder: The Crime of Our Time investigates the unregulated fraud and theft that led to the market's collapse in fall 2008. Filmmaker Danny Schechter, Emmy Award-winning former ABC News and CNN producer, explores the epidemic of subprime mortgages, predatory lending, insurance scams, and high-risk hedge funds that caused the collapse of the housing market and a full-scale economic meltdown. Schechter speaks to a range of analysts and insiders about the origins of the crisis: bankers, respected economists, insider experts, convicted white-collar criminal Sam Antar, and top journalists, including New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. In engaging and enraging detail, the film moves from the mysterious collapse of Bear Stearns, an 85-year-old investment film that disappeared in a week, to the shadowy world of trillion-dollar hedge funds, delving into the complicity of major media outlets that failed to sound the alarm or investigate what was going on. In the end, Plunder lays bare the truth behind events that have affected billions of people. A must for economics, business, and sociology courses, as well as anyone who wants to understand the current financial situation.

Filmmaker Danny Schechter  Running Time 59 mins Production Year 2010 Language English

"For the most art, the media has done a lousy job of explaining the recent U.S. economic collapse. How many of us even know what "derivatives" are -- or the crucial role they played in Wall Street's casino-style looting of the economy. That's why this new movie by Danny Schechter, a journalist and documentarian (In Debt We Trust) who specializes in economic issues, is so welcome and valuable. If they [speculators who made giant profits from the fall] are punished, and the much-needed economic regulatory reforms are adopted ..., honest journalists like Schechter will be one of the main reasons. See this."
Isthmus The Daily Page


The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don't Need

In this powerful new video, Juliet Schor scrutinizes what she calls "the new consumerism"--a national phenomenon of upscale spending that is shaped and reinforced by a commercially-driven media system. She argues that "keeping up with the Joneses" is no longer enough for middle and upper-middle class Americans, many of whom become burdened with debilitating debt as they seek to emulate materialistic TV lifestyles. 

Drawing on her academic research, Schor explains the cultural forces that cause Americans to work longer hours and spend more than they can afford in order to participate in a consumption competition with others. The video illustrates with numerous examples how more and more products are being used as social communicators to demonstrate material success. The Overspent American challenges the inevitability of the consumer lifestyle by proposing alternatives to the work and spend cycle that has so many Americans feeling trapped and unfulfilled. The video draws attention to--and ultimately raises serious questions about--the costs (both financial and societal) of relentlessly searching for happiness and identity through consumption. 

Filmmakers Sut Jhally, Loretta Alper Running Time 33 mins Production Year 2004 Language English

"A careful and lively dissection of disturbing social trends. The video challenges viewers to rethink the meaning and value of consumption in a society dangerously dependent on overconsumption."
- Lawrence Glickman | Author, A Living Wage: American Workers and the Making of Consumer Society
—Ellen R. Hansen, Ph.D., Chair, Department of Social Sciences, Emporia State University


Fire in the Blood: A Tale of Medicine, Monopoly, and Malice

Fire in the Blood tells the shocking story of how Western pharmaceutical companies and governments blocked access to low-cost AIDS drugs in Africa and the global south in the 1990s, leading to the preventable deaths of at least ten million people. Shot on four continents and featuring contributions from global figures such as Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu, and Joseph Stiglitz, the film takes us inside the lethal decision-making process that led to this humanitarian catastrophe. And it shows how millions more people would have died if not for the passion and tactical ingenuity of a group of courageous and relentless activists. The result is a gripping look at corporate greed and government collusion, the cutthroat economics of medicine and healthcare, and the power of ordinary people to make meaningful change on a global scale. Fire in the Blood is essential viewing for anyone concerned about the pharmaceutical industry's ongoing effort to enforce inhumane patent polices in developing nations. 

Filmmaker Dylan Mohan Gray  Running Time 85 mins Production Year 2013 Language English

"Maximize the people's health or maximize private profits? Prioritize patents or prioritize patients? These are the fundamental questions that Fire in the Blood, a sobering documentary, critically calls. Through its politically astute and historically informed analysis of pharmaceutical companies' cupidity and the activism and outrage required to make drugs for HIV/AIDS affordable in the Global South, the film captures a history and on-going struggle that must be widely known, never forgotten, and fearlessly exposed."
- Nancy Krieger | Professor of Social Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health | Author of Epidemiology and the People's Health: Theory and Context


Do the Math: Bill McKibben & the Fight Over Climate Change

The math is simple. To avoid climate catastrophe, we have to limit carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere to 350 parts per million or below. The only problem? We're presently at 400 parts per million -- and climbing. In November 2012, bestselling author and environmental activist Bill McKibben and, the organization he founded, hit the road to raise awareness of this terrifying math and build a movement to challenge the fossil fuel industry. 

Do the Math takes us inside that tour, following McKibben as he delivers an astonishingly clear breakdown of the facts -- and the stakes -- to more than 25,000 people at sold-out shows in 21 cities across the country. The film serves as a much needed correction to industry spin, and shows how an unprecedented global movement is rising up to keep CO2 emissions down. 

Highly recommended for courses that look at climate science, geography, environmental policy, corporate influence, the costs of mass consumerism and consumption, and social change movements.

Filmmaker Bill McKibben  Running Time 50 mins Production Year 2013 Language English

"Do the Math is essential viewing for anyone interested in the points of contact between climate change, politics, and the global economy. It brings home a compelling message from Bill McKibben that the world must reform an economic system tilted heavily towards using several times as much carbon-based fuel as the atmosphere can sustain. Watching this film, supplemented by considering how consumer choice drives this economic imbalance, is a useful starting part for becoming a thoughtful 'global climate citizen.'"
- Dr. Doug Crawford-Brown | Director, Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research, University of Cambridge

Big Bucks, Big Pharma

Big Bucks, Big Pharma pulls back the curtain on the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry to expose the insidious ways that illness is used, manipulated, and in some instances created, for capital gain. Focusing on the industry's marketing practices, media scholars and health professionals help viewers understand the ways in which direct-to-consumer (DTC) pharmaceutical advertising glamorizes and normalizes the use of prescription medication, and works in tandem with promotion to doctors. Combined, these industry practices shape how both patients and doctors understand and relate to disease and treatment. Ultimately, Big Bucks, Big Pharma challenges us to ask important questions about the consequences of relying on a for-profit industry for our health and well-being. 

Featuring interviews with Dr. Marcia Angell (Dept. of Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Former Editor, New England Journal of Medicine), Dr. Bob Goodman (Columbia University Medical Center; Founder, No Free Lunch), Gene Carbona (Former Pharmaceutical Industry Insider and Current Executive Director of Sales, The Medical Letter), Katharine Greider (Journalist; Author, The Big Fix: How the Pharmaceutical Industry Rips Off American Consumers), Dr. Elizabeth Preston (Dept. of Communication, Westfield State College), and Dr. Larry Sasich (Public Citizen Health Research Group).

Filmmaker Ronit Ridberg Running Time 46 mins Production Year 2006 Language English


"Drug companies now spend more than $12 billion a year hawking the newest, most expensive brand-name drugs to patients and doctors in the U.S., regardless of whether those drugs are truly needed or any better than what's been available for years. Big Bucks, Big Pharma is an incisive expose of how marketing has infected everything doctors and patients learn about drugs, and a much-needed antidote to the tidal wave of self-serving drug company propaganda that dominates the airwaves. Anyone who ever prescribes or takes a pill should see this documentary."

- Alex Sugerman-Brozan | The PAL Project


Sugar Coated


Sugar Coated examines the various public relations tactics that the food industry has employed over the years to beat back accelerating concerns about the toxicity of sugar. Its starting point is a secret PR campaign the industry devised in the 1970s to deflect attention away from developing health concerns about sugar. It then traces how in the years since the industry has honed its PR tactics to counter mounting scientific evidence about the dangers of sugar. In the end, Sugar Coated leaves us with two crucial questions: Will the PR specialists of the multibillion-dollar food industry continue their amazing run of success and allow Big Sugar to keep sweetening the world’s food supply? Or will today's heightened level of public awareness about the relationship between sugar consumption and skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and fatty liver disease in children prove to be too much for industry spin to handle -- ultimately forcing the same kind of reckoning we saw with Big Tobacco? Featuring Dr. Bob Lustig, Gary Taubes, Cristin Kearns, and Dr. Yoni Freedhoff. 

Filmmaker Ronit Ridberg Running Time 91 min (full) 60 min (abridged) Production Year 2015 Language English


“must see…a beautifully crafted documentary”

- The Muff Society



A Burning Question

This fascinating and clarifying look at the debate surrounding global warming explores the striking disconnect between the relatively clear-cut concerns of the world's most prominent scientists and the maze of speculation, rhetorical posturing, and outright misinformation that attaches to this issue whenever it's taken up by politicians, PR specialists, and political pundits. Mixing a localized focus on Ireland with insights from scientists and leaders from around the world, the film serves as both a primer on climate science and a penetrating analysis of media framing and the science of perception management. An excellent resource for courses in science, environmental studies, global politics, and media.

Features commentary from former Irish president Mary Robinson, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, paleoclimatologist Jennifer McElwain, and a host of other prominent scientists and commentators.

Filmmaker Paula Kehoe Running Time 53 mins Production Year 2012 Language English


"Engaging and informative. Gets to the heart of the politics of climate change, examining the relationship between the science, the vested interests, the media, and the public. Essential viewing."

- Justin Lewis | Head of School, Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Cardiff University


Google & the World Brain: The Audacious Attempt to Control Human Knowledge


In 1937, the science fiction writer H. G. Wells imagined a "World Brain" containing all of the world's knowledge, accessible to all people, that would be "so compact in its material form and so gigantic in its scope and possible influence" that it could transcend even nation states and governments. Seventy years later, Google set about realizing Wells's vision, launching a massive project to scan millions of books from university library collections. But when it was discovered that over half of the first ten million books Google scanned were still in copyright, authors from around the world joined together to wage a fierce legal battle against the Internet giant, culminating in a dramatic courtroom showdown in 2011. In gripping detail, Google & the World Brain tells the fascinating story of this complicated struggle over intellectual property and access to human knowledge, offering crucial insights into broader debates surrounding data-mining and privacy, downloading and copyright, fair use, freedom and surveillance. 

Filmmaker Ben Lewis Running Time 93 mins Production Year 2013 Language English

"This beautifully shot and carefully conceived documentary problematizes the role the Google Books project has played in our society. Whether you are a supporter or a critic, Ben Lewis' timely and highly engaging film will provoke you to think more deeply about the future of the digital world. Highly recommended!"
- Peter K. Yu | Kern Family Chair in Intellectual Property Law at Drake University

Pack of Lies

Pack of Lies reveals, with powerful insider information, the deception of tobacco industry claims that they do not seek to addict children to nicotine. It provides important analytical background from which to view the current debate. 

Jean Kilbourne is a nationally recognized researcher and lecturer on media, advertising, and health issues. Rick Pollay teaches advertising and marketing management at the University of British Columbia, and has been an expert witness in trials involving the tobacco industry. They team up to provide important insights on the power of advertising dollars to counter the influence of scientific research, to affect news coverage, and to put private profit ahead of public health. 

Filmmaker Sut Jhally Running Time 35 mins Production Year 1992 Language English


"Powerful, persuasive, informative and entertaining. An essential part of any tobacco education program."

- Dr. Black Cody | Chairperson, Massachusetts Coalition for a Healthy Future