They say perspective is everything, especially when it comes to politics. Having a broad view of the global political landscape gives us better insight into what we want—and don’t want—for America. Government suppression of protesters, fake news, autocratic abuse of power—four years ago, these would have seemed like very far-away concepts, but now? They’re at our front door. That’s why we’ve rounded up nine Topic titles that explore all of these issues and more, so you can be better informed. As we approach the 2020 US election on increasingly prickly pins and needles, let’s reinforce our stances against tyranny, manipulation, and disinformation by taking a look at the brave people, fictional and real, who have fought against them around the world.
On the night of his election, President-elect Idder Chaouch is shot point blank. The ramifications of the assassination attempt go far beyond one man’s life. Chaouch was set to become France’s first Arabic president and first president of North African descent. So why would anyone not want to see this exciting history be made? Because to a certain population in France, he represents a betrayal to his ethnicity. The suspenseful political thriller is also a family saga that explores the complex relationships between ethnic pride, national identity, and familial loyalty—but with much higher stakes than the average family.
This one goes out to the everyday folks who are doing the work of titans. Bellingcat is a collective of researchers, investigators, and journalists who turn regular citizens into elite crime solvers using nothing but open source intelligence, social media accounts, and their awe-inspiring clue-finding skills. With nothing but Google Earth, one Bellingcat member is able to track and identify the Russian truck carrying the Buk missile that shot down Flight MH17 over Ukraine. With investigations into major global affairs all over the world, from war zones to crimes against humanity to drug cartels, Bellingcat proves that today’s technology gives all of us the power to make a difference, and to give law enforcement a run for their money.
It takes courage of steel to be a peacemaker, and Ann-Mari has it in spades. Just when she thought her career was over, she’s brought out of retirement to negotiate one last peace deal, and it’s a doozy. She must broker an agreement between the Turks and the Kurds, who have been in conflict for decades over Kurdish rights and independence. As she embarks on her last negotiation, she inadvertently enters a dark web of international arms dealers and political power players and realizes her mission is far more complex than she expected. The series reveals the fascinating paradox of being a peacemaker: you can’t broker peace without putting yourself in danger.
This was a heavy year for Italy. In Milan, prosecutors launched the mani pulite (which is Italian for “clean hands” and makes for one hell of an anti-corruption campaign name) investigation, which put thousands of politicians under scrutiny and led to the dissolution of many political parties and the collapse of the First Republic. This series follows the investigation through the perspectives of six individuals whose lives are intertwined by the scandals, turning the national crisis into a twisty thriller with serious emotional weight.
“1993” picks up where “1992” left off, naturally, examining the fallout of the chaos from the previous year. With the First Republic dissolved, a new batch of right-wing parties will rise out of the ashes, and along with them, a new set of power players, like wealthy media magnate and businessman Silvio Berlusconi, who would go on to be Italy’s longest-running post-war prime minister, serving a total of nine years. But will he really be the face of corruption-free Italy? Even if you already know the answer, the story of his rise is absolutely captivating—and should serve as a cautionary tale for countries run by businessmen. [Gives side-eye to America.]
In 1973, Chile went from a stable democracy to a military-controlled government forged from violence. This three-part documentary traces that trajectory, revealing the tragic collapse of socialist President Salvador Allende’s government, Augusto Pinochet’s bloody coup d’etat that deposed him, and the political tensions that paved the way for one of the most violent events in Chile’s history. To see an entire nation go through a 180-degree transformation within a matter of months because of political division should make any American who actually cares about democracy shake in their boots.
Out of 800 deposit boxes at a Brussels bank, why were these 66 targeted? Was it pure coincidence or are they connected somehow? As Police Inspector Paul Gerardi begins to investigate the case, he discovers that not only are they connected, but the connection is far more sinister than he imagined. Every owner of the boxes belongs to a mysterious organization of Belgian elites called Salamander, who have enough dark secrets among them to bring down the entire nation. As you go deeper into this dangerous world, every twist and turn will leave you breathless. It’s no wonder BBC 4 calls “Salamander” a “first-rate conspiracy thriller.”
Based on real events, this is the story of a real-life hero you’ve never heard of. “Invisible Heroes” is the fictional retelling of the 1973 coup d’etat in Chile that overthrew Allende’s government and replaced it with Pinochet’s military junta. But at the heart of the story is a Finnish diplomat, Tapani Brotherus, who defied his own government to stay in Chile and help rescue 2,000 refugees during the bloody coup. If you liked “Argo,” then this is a must-watch for you. Plus, 2,000 refugees? It’s about time the world knew Brotherus’s name.
In 2007, a group of citizen video journalists known as the Democratic Voice of Burma secretly recorded the largest uprising in Burma since 1988. Known as the Saffron Revolution, 100,000 people took the streets in Burma to protest the government’s lifting of fuel subsidies, which made diesel and petrol prices skyrocket. The demonstrations were led by students, activists, and Buddhist monks and were entirely peaceful, but within weeks the government began cracking down, arresting and detaining hundreds of protesters. As many as 31 people died as a result. The world might have never known the extent of the government suppression if it weren’t for the brave citizens who used their video cameras to expose the truth.