For the last week, Netflix’s true crime series Tiger King has captured much of the internet’s attention with its outsized real story. But for those seeking something off the beaten (salacious) path, a new, very different kind of streaming service has emerged in the crowded entertainment market. Means TV aims to be a worker-owned, “postcapitalist” platform, a viable media option for leftists hungry for quality, curated content. The site launched earlier this month with a promising initial slate, featuring documentaries, homemade cartoons, popular YouTubers and podcasters making exclusive content, and more. All the content is independently made, and the cooperatively owned company seeks to distribute works through deals that are fairer to creators than what any other site offers. Here are some titles unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere on traditional streaming sites.
This series was one of the first on the site to catch my eye, and introduced me to a remarkably talented filmmaker whose work I was not previously familiar with. Lo explores a variety of subjects, from a Silicon Valley bus that becomes a mobile homeless shelter at night to Indigenous bison hunters, with a depth that belies the brevity of her films.
This 2017 masterpiece by Brett Story examines the US prison-industrial complex through a variety of related subjects, none of which take place within an actual prison. These disparate but connected “landscapes” include a removed mountaintop converted into an airstrip for prison transport planes and a vendor who sells items to prison commissaries. The documentary powerfully attests to the wide-reaching effects of this inhumane system.
Abby Martin and Mike Prysner, barred from entering Palestine by Israeli authorities, collaborated with journalists within Gaza to capture protests against the ongoing occupation. This is exactly the kind of film this platform is ideal for, one whose subject matter would be verboten for most traditional media companies and even journalism outlets.
This is a fascinating short film about WorldsChat, an early internet interactive chat program which is, astonishingly, still active. Director Derek Murphy meets the people who continue to use and work to maintain this living time capsule of the mid ’90s web. It’s one of the most creative films in the initial Means slate, with interviews stylized to look like WorldsChat chat boxes.
Despite stereotypes around Appalachia and the “White Working Class,” there’s a rich history of labor solidarity in the region. This documentary short by Addison Post looks at how the West Virginia town of Matewan is reinvigorating interest in its own history via its memorializing of the violent labor struggle that took place there.
This feature doc by Ricky Gaona observes various people going about their daily lives in a park in Antigua, Guatemala. Through a series of simple vignettes, it draws up an evocative mosaic of working-class life in the area.
In between the more well-known US electoral embarrassments that were the 2000 and 2016 presidential elections, too many people overlook the 2004 election, which was also rigged in favor of George W. Bush. Roger Hill’s documentary lays out how the battleground state of Ohio was delivered to the Republicans, highlighting the myriad ways US elections are stacked against the will of the people — the Electoral College, voter suppression, ballot stuffing, and more.
Each installment in this series of narrative shorts dramatizes one real-life case of abduction in Chile under the Pinochet regime. Director Hernán Caffiero has to work to compress a ton of information, sometimes entire life stories, into just a few minutes with each episode. As the title asserts, these are crucial events that need to be recorded and remembered.
Ahmad Chahrour plays a fictional version of himself, a Syrian refugee working various odd jobs to get by in New Jersey. Sensitively constructed by director Chris Bell, the film examines challenges faced by immigrants without ever feeling didactic in the way indie films often do.
One of the most popular forms of entertainment on the planet right now consists simply of watching people playing video games through streams. This series provides a different spin on the concept, however. Leftist comedians join the hosts as they add their commentary to video games both big and small, overtly political and not. This is ideal entertaining background noise while you’re stuck at home.