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Culture Unplugged

Culture Unplugged

What we learn matters, but how we learn matters more.Culture Unplugged is about social and conscious documentaries and short films about the human experience for a global audience


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Mark Freeman
Mark Freeman (Faculty)
5 years ago

This review was created in March 27, 2017.

Culture Unplugged is an aggregator of documentary films. The films range from 1987 to at least 2014. “ presents short length + feature length documentary / film content from independent film-makers and grassroot productions to a global audience ...."

The site includes a number of aspirational statements:
“Culture Unplugged’ ... is a mission, a vision and an aspiration to facilitate integration of disparate parts of the self ...."

The site chooses films through a “festival selection process.” Reviewers are based in Mountain View CA, and Pune, Maharashtra, India.

A click on “NOW” brings up a link to an Al Jazeera documentary newsletter. It features reports from Inter Press Service and video from Al Jazeera. The site is broadly committed to “social change.” It includes disparate voices and points-of-view without a commitment to a specific ideology. From a pedagogical perspective, this is an advantage.

Content is searchable by broad headings including

  • Human Life 
  • Human Community
  • Human Exploration

The topics are necessarily broad with some overlap. It’s not obvious why “Farming & Food” is part of Human Exploration while “Food, Water and Livelihood” is under Human Life and Sustainability & Simplicity are listed under Human Community.

There is an open ended “Search” function. Looking for “coal in the United States” returns relevant hits as well as "The Beekeepers." If the search returns “no results” a list of “what the audience is watching now” appears.

Filmmakers are identified as “Story.Tellers.” The site claims that there are contributors from 150 countries –– an unusually diverse group of makers. Contributors are not listed by country. There is a photo collage of about 120 images. Clicking and then mousing over an image reveals a snapshot summary of a film and its maker. Contributors appear to range from first-time filmmakers to major producers like ARTE (France) and CARE.

Films range from feature length productions to a few minutes. Thumbnail images are accompanied with a brief synopsis and data describing the country of origin, director, year of production etc. The films are in English or subtitled in English. The films stream full screen. There are no closed captions. There is no opportunity for user reviews or comments, except checking boxes such as “Incredible,” Informative,” Humorous,” etc. The quality of the streaming varies from very good to pixilated. Films range from professional productions with high production values to amateur “films of the heart.”

This site has a global reach, making little known films freely available. It addresses contemporary issues and pressing concerns. It offers faculty and students “infinite choices.” This is both its strength and its greatest weakness.

It’s my impression that this library of materials would serve as valuable research tool to determine what kinds of films exist on a given topic. It would be less valuable for students of documentary production, seeking out exemplars of outstanding documentary practice and technique. I would offer this as a supplementary resource for documentary students. The site may be of even greater value to teachers and students in a wide variety of disciplines especially in the social sciences, as well as students of environmental science, ecology, women’s studies, queer studies, communication, religious studies, health etc.

Time spent reviewing site: 2 hours
Arnie Schoenberg
Arnie Schoenberg (Faculty)
6 years ago

I have a project where students need to reveiw videos, and this a great source.


Used in course? Yes
Time spent reviewing site: 15 mins