An Australian feature-length documentary which turns a light on the dark side of human behaviour and challenges audiences on what they would do if ordered to inflict pain on another person will get a national release.
Writer-director Kathryn Millard’s Shock Room combines dramatisations, animation, archival film and interviews with psychologists to debunk Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram’s infamous 1960s ‘Obedience to Authority’ experiment.
Believing they were participating in a study on memory and learning, participants were asked to inflict apparently lethal shocks on a fellow human. Milgram later famously claimed that 65 per cent of us will blindly follow orders.
Extensive research from Millard, who is Professor of Screen and Creative Arts at Macquarie University, reveals that Milgram ran more than 25 versions of his experiment but filmed only one. And that, overall, the majority of people actually resisted.
Shock Room will screen at the Antenna Documentary Film Festival in Sydney on October 16 and at ACMI in Melbourne on November 25, followed by national release.
Goodship, a new company formed by distribution veteran Courtney Botfield and publicity maven Tracey Mair, will manage the screening program through universities and one of the on-demand cinema platforms, starting in March.
This week Botfield was awarded the 2015 Natalie Miller Fellowship for her efforts as an impact producer and in helping filmmakers find new pathways to finance and distribute films.
Shock Room was funded by Macquarie University, University of Queensland, the Australian Research Council, St Andrews University, The Gingerbread Man and Creative Ecologies Lab.
The docu screened last week at the London School of Economics followed by a Q&A with Millard and psychologists Alex Haslam and Stephen Reicher who are featured in the film.
Historian Richard Overy said, “Shock Room is essential viewing for everyone concerned with how humans behave when they are asked to obey a difficult order. It has a powerful message, skilfully communicated – above all that we have a choice whether to obey or not, and should recognise that hopeful reality.”