Established in 2004 by Robert Greenwald, Brave New Films (BNF) produces full-length political documentaries and online “shorts” (posted on YouTube and other Internet sites) intended to “challenge the powerful interests in America” and “champion social justice issues” in an effort to cultivate a nation filled with “socially conscious activists.” Specifically, BNF employs principles of guerrilla filmmaking—a form of independent video production characterized by low budgets, skeleton crews, simple props, and tight schedules where scenes are shot quickly, in real-world locations, without advance notice and without obtaining permission from either public or private authorities.
A member of the Media Consortium, BNF has sought, from its inception, to bypass traditional methods of film distribution. That is, it makes extensive use of online “shorts” (as noted above); releases full-length documentaries in brief, sequential installments that viewers can access online; distributes DVDs in conjunction with ideologically likeminded groups such as MoveOn.org; and relies heavily on house parties where BNF’s million-plus “supporters” show the organization’s videos to people in their respective circles of influence. Moreover, BNF aggressively promotes its films via social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. As of October 2014, BNF claimed that its videos had cumulatively received “over 100 million” views.
According to the Capital Research Center (CRC), BNF’s efforts are not motivated chiefly by a thirst for financial profit, but rather by a burning desire to “poison public opinion against [its] enemies” and thereby “energize an online political community.” Such “virtual community organizing,” says CRC, requires far less time and money than traditional marketing strategies like direct mail, phone calls, and print advertisements.
BNF’s films focus on three major issue areas:
1) Justice: Lamenting that America is “locking up … people at higher rates than any other country in the world,” BNF asserts that “harsh [prison] sentences for even modest offenses are breaking up families and taking away people’s basic rights”; that “this disproportionately affects poor people and communities of color, fortifying institutionalized racism and classism”; and that “solutions such as rehabilitation, violence reduction, and increasing job opportunities have proved to be more cost-effective for taxpayers than continuing to imprison people in mass numbers, and yet those programs are not expanding at nearly the rate of prisons.”
2) Inequality: BNF complains that “the average worker in America makes substantially less than those who run the corporations that run our lives,” and that “the same people who are making huge profits are using their influence to make sure nobody else can climb up the ladder.” To address this situation, the organization works with local and national groups to “decrease income inequality through reforming laws and corporate practices, from increasing the minimum wage, to pressuring multi-million dollar corporations to treat workers fairly, to calling out the worst of the billionaire playboys, the Koch brothers.”
3) Security: By spending “billions of taxpayer dollars annually on perpetual war abroad and spying technologies here on our own soil,” says BNF, the federal government has “fueled terrorism and taken away our very own civil liberties.”
During 2004-14, BNF produced eight full-length documentaries and more than a dozen short videos on a variety of political themes. The full-length features were:
Other past and current BNF projects of significance include the following:
In 2016-17, following Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president, BNF produced such titles as: (a) Stand Up, Senate! The President-Elect Is a Hypocrite; (b) Protect Public Education: Stop Betsy DeVos! (DeVos was Trump’s Secretary of Education); (c) Indivisible: A Practical Guide For Resisting The Trump Agenda.; and (d) 16 Women and Donald Trump, featuring allegations by women claiming that Trump had sexually harassed them.
On December 11, 2017, BNF hosted a press conference where a number of women who had previously accused President Trump of sexual harassment and assault spoke publicly about their experiences and called for Congress to conduct an investigation of sexual misconduct by the president.
Notwithstanding the overtly political nature of BNF’s productions and activities, the organization describes itself as a “non-partisan” 501(c)(3) nonprofit group that does not “expressly advocate for the election or defeat of candidates for public office.”
BNF has received financial support from such entities as the Arca Foundation, the Barbra Streisand Foundation, the Democracy Alliance, Democracy For America, the Ford Foundation, Media Matters For America, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, George Soros‘s Open Society Foundations, the Park Foundation, the Public Welfare Foundation, the Schooner Foundation, the Stewart R. Mott Foundation, and the Tides Foundation. A noteworthy individual donor was the longtime television producer Norman Lear.
To view a list of additional funders of BNF, click here.