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Backlight: State of Alert Israel Style

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‘When it comes to security, Europe is still in a state of denial’ – (Michal Marmary, Homeland Security Tel Aviv)

Why is the Belgian Minister for Security, Jan Jambon, looking at ‘city tanks’ in Tel Aviv? Recent suicide attacks in Paris, Brussels, Nice and Berlin have greatly increased focus on civilian safety in Europe. More and more, politicians, security experts and the media refer to Israel as a model of well-organized civilian security. Some even talk about the ‘Israelisation of Europe’. But what exactly is the Israeli security model? Can it be applied in Europe and what world view would our continent be importing along with it?

Backlight: Shale Cowboys

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Having your own sources of energy is an important weapon in the global economy. Since 2013 the United States are striking important blows against fossil-rich opponents such as Saudi Arabia with the extraction of shale gas and shale oil from their own soil. The price of a barrel of crude oil dropped from 100 dollars to less than 50. The Texan shale producers who survived this price war are the new heroes of the United States. Under ‘drill president’ Donald Trump the shale cowboys are eager to help Europe become energy-independent as well. An investigation in Trumpland.

Backlight: The Mayor – Mobility is a Human Right

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Mayor of Palermo Leoluca Orlando, celebrated and loved for taking on the mafia, is a man with a mission. He wants mobility to be recognized as a human right. In his city, Orlando has done away with residence permits. He personally welcomes African gold-diggers arriving in the harbour. He recently visited The Hague in order to launch his approach at the first meeting of the Global Parliament of Mayors. Can one mayor make the difference?  

Backlight: Superfortness Europe

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The budget Brussels makes available for European border protection has increased by billions in the past few years. The reason: terrorism and the growing numbers of refugees. New surveillance technology is a growth market that is literally gaining ground because of all the deals Brussels is making with so-called third countries: After the Turkey Deal, agreements are now also being made with countries such as Niger and Sudan, and, if current EU president Malta has anything to say about it, with Libya too, as soon as possible. Money, knowledge and technology in exchange for shifting Europe’s borders.

Backlight: Eurotopia

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The European Union is morally and culturally bankrupt, according to German philosopher and historian Ulrike Guérot. Time to carry the EU project to its grave. Guérot envisions a European republic that consists of 50 regions around clusters of big cities, with a recognizable identity and shared economic and cultural interest. A decisive Europe that reinvents itself.

Backlight: Black Lives Matter

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In 2013 in Sanford, Florida, vigilante George Zimmerman was found not guilty of the murder of 17-year-old African American Trayvon Martin. As a result, the struggle against police violence flared up under the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter and turned into one of the biggest grassroots movements in the United States.

In Procedure

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A Syrian father flees to the Netherlands, to save his young daughter who is seriously ill. The long wait during the asylum procedure delays the daughters’ hope for recovery and this makes him desperately doubt his decision to flee Syria.

Backlight: Still Berning

Bernie Sanders lost the primaries to nominate a US presidential candidate for the Democratic Party to Hillary Clinton. But it was a glorious loss. And it has become a beginning, not an end. The end of the Bernie Sanders campaign marks the start of a political movement. What are the next steps for this movement and what role will it play in future elections? What is its staying power? And how can a new political generation bring democracy back into the hands of the people and make it truly representative?

Zembla: Dangerous Play

Since 2009, American soccer trainer Amy Griffin has kept a record of players who played on artificial turf filled in with rubber granules and got cancer. She fears there may be a link between the disease and this material made of old car tyres. Today there are 230 players on her list.

Music on the run

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Abandoned by the world, a clear male voice comes from the ‘Jungle of Calais’. He sings, full of melancholy: “I am here, but my soul is at the other side of the ocean.” There isn’t a better way to describe the hopeless state of mind of thousands of refugees in the most well known refugee camp Calais in France. Their hope for a better future turns into fear, despair and apathy. What’s left is music. Out of protest, solidarity or sadness. The camera of renowned filmmaker Frans Bromet observes and registers the refugees and their music up until the moment the camp is closed down. Singing brings back dignity and humanity to people when almost everything is lost.

Backlight: Justice for all

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Access to justice: for four billion out of the just over seven billion people on earth this is too expensive, too complicated, blocked by corruption, or simply not available. Lawyers working for the Dutch government devote themselves to the digital innovation of the legal industry. Surprisingly enough, Kenya is a trendsetter in this respect. Under the inspiring guidance of Supreme Court Judge Willy Mutunga, and with the aid of text messaging, smartphones and Twitter, a countrywide network of apps and legal volunteers is built. Injustice is combatted with cell phones instead of law degrees.

A Haunting History

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After studying in England, the young and ambitious lawyer Anuol, returns to his homeland South Sudan. Haunted by his own violent past and committed to fighting against human rights violations, he believes that the law will be his only true guide to bring sustainable peace to the country. But his western education clashes with the minds of his fellow countrymen. While Anuol strongly believes in the healing power of justice by convictions, others think it best to lay the past to rest. Desperately trying to convince his countrymen that there is no reconciliation without justice, Anuol finds himself on the verge of a breakdown.

Backlight: Invasion of the Drones

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They fly in swarms, deliver packages and can be as small as insects. Drones are much more than the weapons used by the US Army against terrorists. We see them fly more often and they pop up everywhere in our lives. In the USA, over one million drones were found as toys underneath the Christmas trees.

Argos TV: A Sea of Pictures

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In 2015, almost 4000 boat refugees drown during their crossing to Europe. We only know the name of one of them: Aylan Kurdi. On September 2, the photograph of a toddler washed up on the beach in Bodrum went viral on social media. One day later it headlined newspapers worldwide. Media call the photograph iconic and politicians have used the image of the drowned infant for their own grandstanding. Supporters and opponents alike have tried to embrace Aylan as a symbol for a more generous refugee policy. Six months later, Medialogica wonders: what is the significance of such a picture in the refugee debate?

Backlight: Offline is the New Luxury

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To be online all the time and everywhere. It sounds great, but it has its drawbacks. As digital networks are closing in, there are fewer places to be really on your own. Being offline is becoming a luxury. Where can you be offline? For those who, from time to time, wish to escape smartphone and Wi-Fi signals, VPRO introduces the international White Spots App http://white-spots.net/ (only downloadable in the Netherlands).

Backlight: Next Stop Istanbul

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With neighbouring Syria in ruins and stricken by a civil war, Turkey keeps its borders closed in exchange for billions of euros from the European Union. Many Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans have managed to cross the porous borders and are now in Istanbul, the gateway to Europe. Will they stay there or is crossing to Europe too irresistible?

Mission Beirut

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The Dutch embassy in Lebanon, under the leadership of Hester Somsen, has the difficult mission to encourage the stability in a country where ISIS is rattling at the gates, where the gouvernment is disfunctional and where the huge stream of refugees from neighbouring country Syria undermines the country and introduces problems of radicalisation.

The Girl of 672k

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The Girl of 672k is a coming of age film about the imaginative  Annegien (15), whose creative talents draw ample attention in the virtual landscape of YouTube and Instagram. Her personal and artistic photographs on her Instagram account Fetching_tigerss reach over 672,000 followers, something most Youtubers can only dream of.

Backlight: The Breakthrough in Renewable Energy

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You won’t read about it in the papers, but a silent worldwide revolution is taking place: renewable energy is becoming cheaper than energy from fossil fuels. More and more, opting for wind and solar energy is no longer an ethical choice but an economic one. This will speed up the transfer to renewable energy.

Backlight: Cyberjihad

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Jihadists are fighting a war on social media. The propaganda they spread is getting ever more professional. Which virtual weapons will ISIS deploy to radicalise young people in the West? Why do young Europeans fall for ‘the medieval reality show’ of ISIS?

No Rio e No Mar!

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The beautiful island of Ilha de Maré in Brasil was once a rare habitat full of life. Now this little paradise is seriously threatened by the petrochemical industry. Fisherwomen Nega and Eliete, together with their attorney Marcos, stand up against pollution by the oil companies and the indifference of the government.

Backlight: After the Revolution

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In the spring of 2011 many protesters took over the public squares in Spain. They demanded that a stop had to be put to the cuts, the evictions, and the sell-out to the banks. In the squares of Tunis, Kiev, Amsterdam, Cairo, Istanbul and Tel Aviv big groups of people gathered over the past few years to protest and press their demands for change. But what happened after the demonstrations in the squares?

The Toxic Circle

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Campania, the area around Naples, is known as the biggest illegal landfill for chemical waste in Europe. This is where the Camorra, the local mafia, dumps industrial waste from all over Europe and even from outside the continent. They pour it in the rivers, they bury it in farmlands or burn it by the side of the road.

Backlight: In Memoriam: Aleksander Litvinenko

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It started as a possible case of food poisoning but within weeks turned into a grim spectacle of enormous political proportions: Aleksander Litvinenko, former member of the Russian secret service, died in his place of residence London in November 2006, after having been poisoned with a radioactive substance.

Backlight: Race to Space

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The colonization of space has only just begun. Numerous parties have great ambitions to explore outer space for tourism, transportation and raw materials. It’s a race, and slowly but surely it’s becoming clear that there is a need for clear rules concerning the entering and use of this space. Space lawyer Frans von der Dunk is currently one of the few people in the world who is trying to shed some light on this.

Backlight: Negotiator in Times of War

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The civil war in Syria is entering its fifth year. The number of refugees leaving hearth and home is taking on unparalleled proportions. In Europe the call for closing the borders is heard and politicians are more and more calling for reception in the region, but what does this actually mean?

Backlight: The Earth’s Lawyer


Our world knows four international crimes: war crimes, genocide, torture and crimes against humanity. Spanish examining magistrate Baltasar Garzón and Scottish lawyer Polly Higgins believe that this list of serious violations of international law should be expanded with a fifth: ecocide. Will Higgins and Garzón eventually succeed in gaining enough support to get recognition for ecocide, truly putting the large-scale destruction of our ecosystems high on the international political agenda once and for all?

Backlight: Fossil Free


A growing group of concerned citizens no longer trusts politicians to tackle climate change. They now focus on the financial sector and receive help from unexpected sources. Big banks like HSBC, Citibank and the regulating Bank of England recently started to warn against the so-called ‘carbon bubble’. Investing in coal, oil and gas not only causes temperatures to rise, but it also involves substantial financial risks, for pensions for example. Armed with this new weapon, activists are summoning pension funds, universities and other funds to reduce their investments in fossil fuels.

Eritrea Stars

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In 2012, the Eritrean soccer team defected during a tournament in Uganda. Two years later, the players turn up in the Dutch city of Gorinchem. The local cop and the soccer team immediately conscript the refugees: they are given a place to stay, clothing and of course soccer training – after all, the local team wouldn’t mind a shot at the Africa Cup.

Backlight: Bitcoin Gospel


Is bitcoin the blueprint for a bankless currency, or the biggest pyramid scheme ever?What if we could create money ourselves, without the need for banks? Money that can’t be forged, that will appreciate rather than depreciate, and that can be used worldwide without transaction costs.

Backlight: The Smart State

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We think new technology is developed by hip companies like Google and Apple. But is this true? VPRO Backlight explores the innovation climate in Europe, to find out what role governments and the private sector play in this. Who finances the development, and who profits from it?

Backlight: TTIP Might is Right


The proposed free trade agreement between the US and Europe (TTIP) causes concern about the European right to self-determination. The most controversial part of TTIP is ISDS: investor-state dispute settlement. ISDS will make it possible for companies to sue governments that damage their investments. But is this arbitrage system where a few investment lawyers decide over billions of taxpayers money a protection of our business interests, or a threat to our democracy?

Backlight: Greece for Sale

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Now that a Grexit seems to have been averted, and the strictest cutbacks ever have been announced, Greece is entering a new chapter. The welfare state is dismantled even further and all state property is weighed and sold. What dangers are lurking, and how will the Greek sell out change the country?

MH17: A Nation’s Grief

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In the summer of 2014, the Netherlands received the devastating news that a plane that had departed from Amsterdam was shot down in Ukraine. There were no survivors: two hundred Dutch people were killed. Following the tragedy of flight MH17, the nation turned to mourning, sympathizing with all people who lost a loved one that day. The process of returning the body parts from Ukraine – in 243 coffins – took several months and caused a sense of nationwide grief. Seen through the eyes of three very different families, this film gives an impressive insight into the way the tragedy has affected these people personally. All families live in limbo, unsure whether or not they will ever receive new information regarding their loved ones’ remains.

Backlight: Branding Europe

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The extent to which the IS caliphate seems to appeal to young Muslims, the strong Kremlin propaganda machine, and the unstoppable flow of migrants at the gates: Europe can feel the threat of it all breathing down its neck. There is an increasing urgency for Europe to restate its raison d’être. A clear and emotional story about what we are and what that is worth to us.

Just Listen


How well do we know the people around us? What if a loved one considers suicide? Would you be able to tell? Would they tell you? And what would you say? JUST LISTEN shows us the powerful effect of listening in times of despair. Intimate confessions of people who could be your neighbour, classmate or husband reveal what’s on their mind on these defining moments. They show us the meaning of being present at the right moment.

Backlight: E-stonia- a start-up country

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In the very north-east of Europe, on the border of Russia, lies the small country of Estonia. Per capita, Estonia has the most start-ups; internet access is considered a human right and all Estonians have free wifi. Whatever is new in the field of digital society has been tried out and used here first. The first e-residents have given their fingerprints for a virtual residence permit. The eyes of cosmopolitans, entrepreneurs and Silicon Valley venture capitalists are on it.

Backlight: Digital Food

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Modern food production is largely dependent on fossil fuels. Now that we are beginning to reach the end of them, the main question remains: How will we feed a global population of 9 billion people in 2050? In the Netherlands, Belgium and Silicon Valley, numerous startups have sprung up that use smart technology, big data and new distribution systems to find solutions for this issue.

Argos TV: Why Srebrenica had to Fall

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Serb general Ratko Mladic knew that there would not be any NATO airstrikes when, in July 1995, his troops launched the attack on the Srebrenica enclave – which was protected by Dutch UN soldiers – and killed over eight thousand people. Six weeks earlier, the Clinton administration had decided not to carry out any further airstrikes on Serb targets ‘for the time being’. Washington made that decision ‘in silence’. The Dutch government at that time was left completely in the dark.

Backlight: Mobile Gold

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Our waste is worth money. Recovering it has started up a new global industry worth billions. It is called Urban Mining and it appears to be the solution for many of our environmental problems and our energy needs. A ton of broken mobile phones, computers or other electronic waste contains sixty times the amount of gold a ton of gold ore has.

Stand by your President

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Feature documentary about Sandra Roelofs, a Dutch girl who became the First Lady of exotic but politically instable Georgia. After ten turbulent years in office her husband, the now controversial  Mikhael Saakashvili, cannot be re-elected. The presidential couple become citizens again. What does a life in the political limelight entail, and what is the price paid in your private life?

Backlight: The new Wisdom of Ricardo Semler

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We are smarter than ever, but have we also grown wiser? According to Ricardo Semler, the Brazilian top entrepreneur and philosopher who became immensely rich by making his employees happy, our economy has gone completely off the rails and capitalism has failed to create equality anywhere, ever.

Backlight: Changemakers

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French economist Thomas Piketty and Canadian activist Naomi Klein are intellectual super stars who conquer the world with their ideas. They inspire and mobilize millions of people all over the globe. 

Argos TV: The World according to Russia Today

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The channel Russia Today was launched in 2005 under the name Russia Today to bring the Russian perspective on world events to a global audience. To counter channels like BBC World, CNN and Al-Jazeera. Almost ten years later it’s the biggest news organisation on YouTube with its 2 billion views, more than CNN and BBC together. Where its critics call it a bullhorn for Russian propaganda, RT presents itself as an alternative to mainstream media.

Ghosts from the Past

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In solitary confinement of a prison Viggo wonders why he developed from a sensitive little boy into a merciless criminal. He decides to give up his criminal existence for good and dives into his past to avoid making the very same mistakes a second time.

Backlight: Arctic Promises


In the North, people are happy that climate change is a fact now: If we continue this way, the Arctic ice will have melted by 2040! We will see glaciers disappear and entire species of fish migrate.

Backlight: Zero Days

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There is new gold to be found on the internet, and possibly in your own computer. Secret backdoors, that do not have a digital lock yet, are being traded at astronomical amounts. In the cyber world trade, where there are no rules, you are in luck with “white-hat” hackers, who guard your online security. But their opponents, the “black-hat” hackers, have an interest in an unsecure internet, and sell security leaks to the highest bidder. They are the preferred suppliers of security services and cyber defence. Who are these black and white wizards, who fight for the holy grail of hackers: zero days?

Ebola: In Pursuit of a deadly Virus


A reconstruction of the first Ebola outbreak in Zaire in 1976. This 25-minute documentary includes the detailed stories of microbiologist Peter Piot and virologist Guido van der Groen, both discoverers of the Ebola virus in the 1970’s during their time in Zaire. The documentary includes footage from their personal archives.

Dusty Bin Dreams


Eriss Khajira grew up on the largest dumpsite of East Africa: the Dandora dumpsite. Tens of thousands of people live on and around this dumpsite, scavenging through the waste of Nairobi’s residents. Khajira goes back to the place of her youth and she portrays five dumpsite inhabitants.

Backlight: Power to the City


While national governments are mired in party politics and their own bureaucracy, the cities are bursting with energy, optimism and a sense of resolve. Where national governments fail, on a city level many problems – in the fields of the environment, poverty, food production and care – are solved more quickly and together in collaboration with citizens.

Storming Paradise


What drives young Western men to leave everyone and everything behind and travel to Syria to become a Jihad fighter? The media portrays these boys as vulnerable and derailed. Is there another side to this picture? In order to understand why they feel called upon to pick up arms and leave everything they know behind, filmmaker Floor van der Meulen abandons her Western perspective to be able to see things through the eyes of the fighters.

Land of Promise


In Land of Promise we see how, since the 1950s, immigration has irreversibly changed the societies of Europe and why it will continue to do so.

The film is made out of beautiful and often provocative international archive material. Clips from talk shows, radio programmes, documentaries and feature films guide us through the debates of past decades that have helped to shape change in Europe. Post-war immigration is shown from a new perspective.

Backlight: Seed Battles

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Hidden deep inside a massive mountain in inhospitable Spitsbergen is the most important vault in the world: the Global Seed Vault. It is 20 degrees below zero and the vault is able to withstand earthquakes, floods, missile attacks and nuclear disaster. It’s Noah’s Ark for our food production with the largest diversity in seeds from all over the world, a backup of as many crops as possible and the toolbox for seed breeders. This is vital, for by 2050 there will be 9 billion mouths to feed.

Backlight: Big Data; The Shell Search

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Ever since the revelations about the snooping practices of the US and the Dutch intelligence services, we have become increasingly aware of the vast amount of digital data that are stored about us on the net, in the matrix. Data about citizens, information about governments and multinationals is also stored in multi-terabyte files: big data. The good news is that a large part of this information is, thus, also accessible to all of us, if you just know where to look.

Backlight: The Wall Street Code

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A thriller about a genius algorithm builder who dared to stand up against Wall Street.
From the makers of the much-praised Quants: the Alchemists of Wall Street and Money & Speed: Inside the Black Box. Now the long-awaited final episode of a trilogy in search of the winners and losers of the tech revolution on Wall Street. Could mankind lose control of this increasingly complex system?

Backlight: Greece is the Anwer


Is ailing Greece the start of a new Europe? New economic models arising from the ruins of the bankrupt growth economy, and now citizens take their own control over supply and demand.

Many Greeks are gradually coming to terms with the collapse of a failing social and political system. They are taking matters into their own hands and addressing crucial issues through grassroots activism and local collective action. There are signs of a lifestyle transformation, incorporating values and social patterns of the past.

Daddy Doll

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This is a documentary about family-life inside the United States military. Through cinematographic observation a portrait of a military family, living on a US army base in Louisiana has been made.

Sister, Soldier


In the summer of 2010, 18-year-old Chamoetal Zeidler, sister to filmmaker Dikla Zeidler, started her 2 years of mandatory military service in the Spokesperson’s Unit of the Israeli Army (IDF). With an Israeli father and a Dutch mother, growing up both in Israel and in the Netherlands, going to the army wasn’t the obvious choice for the Zeidler sisters. The filmmaker herself chose not to serve and lives in the Netherlands.

Backlight: Hotel Europe. Go with the Workflow

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Amid protests from citizens and (populist) politicians,t Northern Europe is sending money to the ailing economies of Southern Europe. But wouldn’t it be better to combat the high youth unemployment in the PIGS countries (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain) with a better international alignment of Europe’s labour market?

Backlight: Inside the Banker’s Brain


Joris Luyendijk (journalist/publicist, with a ‘banker’s blog’ for ‘The Guardian’) dives into the financial brain of the London City, and descends into the minds of the master bankers. A study of adrenaline, testosterone, addiction, and the magic of the big bucks.

Backlight: The Africa-China Connection


Backlight follows a group of Nigerian immigrants in the Chinese metropolis Guangzhou. This community is at the vanguard of an important trend that will determine the economic and political development in the first half of the 21st century: the flow of migrants from low-wage countries is shifting from the old continent Europe to the new economies in Asia.

Backlight: The Tax Free Tour


‘Where do multinationals pay taxes and how much?’ Gaining insight from international tax experts, Backlight director Marije Meerman, takes a look at tax havens, the people who live there and the routes along which tax is avoided globally.

Willem-Alexander and Máxima


On 2-2-2002 Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and Máxima said their vows at the New Church in Amsterdam. This documentary looks back on their fairy-tale wedding day with images of ‘Máxima’s tear’ and the kiss on the balcony.

Backlight: The Promised City

On the Western Jordan Banks a wonder takes place. Next year 40,000 people from the new Palestinian middle class will live in the new supercity Rawabi City.

Sinners’Disease

Sasha Volgina, a 31-years old Russian, is HIV positive and pregnant. At the moment, Russia has the fastest growing AIDS-epidemic in the world. More than 1 million Russian people have HIV, most of them younger than 35.

Backlight: The Israel Lobby

For many years now the American foreign policy has been characterized by the strong tie between the United States and Israel. Does the United States in fact keep Israel on its feet? And how long will it continue to do so?