The 2024 Santa Monica Film Festival was chock full of red-pilled conspiracy content

The 18th annual Santa Monica Film Festival, which held in-person screenings on Saturday, February 3 and which is running online screenings through February 28, chose to feature and then give awards to some dangerous right-wing conspiracy theories masquerading as "documentary" films.

The festival awarded "Best Documentary Feature" to The Great Awakening, the third film in anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist Mikki Willis' Plandemic series. The Santa Monica Film Festival website describes the film:

The Great Awakening is the third installment of the 'Plandemic' series. This documentary experience assembles forbidden puzzle pieces to reveal the big picture of what's really happening in America and beyond. The Great Awakening is intended to be a lighthouse to guide us out of the storm and into a brighter future.

 The Plandemic website also provides a description of the film:

Witness the culmination of truth-seeking as PLANDEMIC 3: The Great Awakening unravels the layers of corruption and unveils a path towards a brighter future. Prepare to be inspired, awakened, and empowered to take a stand for liberty.

After the screening, the audience was treated to a Q&A with Rizza Islam, anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist and member of the Center for Countering Digital Hate's disinformation dozen.

The first installment of Plandemic was released May 4, 2020, and was largely responsible for the viral spread of COVID-19 conspiracy theories and vaccine disinformation. The New York Times explained in 2020 that nothing in the pandemic had gone as viral as the 26-minute short film, "a slickly produced narration that wrongly claimed a shadowy cabal of elites was using the virus and a potential vaccine to profit and gain power. The video featured a discredited scientist, Judy Mikovits, who said her research about the harm from vaccines had been buried."

The films in the Plandemic series continue to be circulated online, and have been seen millions of times. They have also been thoroughly debunked. Logically Facts describes some of the disinformation included in the third film, the one that just won "Best Documentary Feature" at the film festival: 

Willis has been busy promoting Plandemic 3: The Great Awakening, and the trailer, released on May 23, has already racked up over 2 million views on Twitter. This time, the controversial director has teamed up with Del Bigtree, founder of the Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), one of America's most prominent anti-vaccine groups. The Great Awakening will be exclusively streamed on Bigtree's website, the Highwire, which frequently publishes anti-vaccine misinformation and attracts more than 300,000 monthly visitors.

Dorit Reiss, a law professor at the University of California, has previously researched ICAN. Reiss explained to Logically Facts how the organization regularly misrepresents the legal definitions of court decisions to spread false narratives: "ICAN uses FOIA requests as a query, asking questions that likely do not have government records." Reiss further explained that "when the government, predictably, says they do not have such records (because many of CDC's statements on scientific matters are based, for example, on scientific literature rather than government records), ICAN misrepresents that as showing there is no evidence – where all the answer shows is that there is no specific record." While ICAN publicizes its petitions submitted to the government, it fails to inform the public about the government's response to such questions. 

In the trailer, Willis dubs lockdowns as "synchronized tyranny" to control the masses. Lockdowns were not a sinister plot to strip away people's rights but a measure that has been shown to be effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19. The Conversation notes that countries like New Zealand, which implemented lockdown measures early in the pandemic, had fewer deaths than the U.K., where the lockdown response was delayed. 

Willis attempts to explain what he sees as the global elite's supposed totalitarianism. The trailer comprises several out-of-context clips of world leaders and politicians discussing the Great Reset, a much-debunked conspiracy drawn from antisemitic tropes that powerful elites control everything from lockdowns to health, transportation, and the climate. 

Next, the film We Will Not Be Silenced won the film festival's award for "Best International Documentary." The film festival's Instagram describes the film, which was directed by Brian Rose and Luis Solarat:

We Will Not Be Silenced is a shocking insight into the Orwellian world of online censorship witnessed up close and personal through the experiences of Brian Rose, founder and host of London Real, who had his 2 million subscriber YouTube channel deplatformed for simply broadcasting interviews that challenged the status quo.

Banned by Silicon Valley's biggest monopolies, Rose and his millions of supporters defiantly fight back by broadcasting a world record-breaking global livestream, demonstrating the importance of defending our most fundamental right: freedom of speech.

Unfortunately on September 4th 2023, the London Real channel was deleted and permanently banned from YouTube, ending 12 years of free expression without recourse.

We Will Not Be Silenced serves both as a cautionary tale and a beacon of inspiration, ushering in a new generation of self-broadcasting as content creators across the world begin to fight back against Big Tech's censorship.

Director Luis Solarat is a "filmmaker and creative with London Real, director of "Reconnect" ayahuasca documentary, manager and facilitator with Psychonauta Foundation" who leads ayahuasca retreats in Peru. And Brian Rose, who recently announced that he will be running for Mayor of London again in 2024, runs London Real, which used to be on YouTube but is now its own website. Through London Real, Rose continues to platform reptilian conspiracy theorist David Icke and spread antisemitic conspiracy theories and disinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines.

Finally, "Shot Dead" is another "documentary" that was screened at the film festival, although it didn't win anything. This film, a "We the Patriots USA Original Production" features parents who believe their children were killed by COVID-19 vaccines. Here's the description of the film on the festival website:

This is the movie we wish we didn't have to make. But this is a movie everyone needs to see. For the first time ever, hear the stories of covid shot deaths as told by the parents who lost their children. Join us in Santa Monica, CA for the Los Angeles premiere of Shot Dead on Saturday February 3 – A few months past the one-year anniversary of 18 year-old Trista Martin's death from the shot (Trista is featured prominently in the film). 

​Hear from the families brave enough to speak up and admit that the shot killed their children. Hear from the ones who have refused to keep quiet. We all know that there are so many who have sold out to pharma, denying that their loved ones were hurt or killed by the shots. But there is no amount of money or threats that can keep these parents from speaking truth in honor of their children…and so this doesn't happen to one more child.

I haven't seen the film, so I'm in no position to say what happened to their children, but I do know that the right-wing organization that created the film has been actively funding and promoting anti-Critical Race Theory and anti-vaccine lawsuits, and is seeking to eliminate vaccine mandates for school children. I also know that the organization's main lawyer is Norm Pettis, who has represented Alex Jones and Proud Boy Joseph Biggs. So you'll understand if I'm skeptical about the veracity of the film.

We the Patriots USA describe their work on their Substack: "We the Patriots USA is a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to preserving and defending our God-given inalienable rights, including those recorded in the U.S. Constitution." On their website, they provide this list of "some of the things" their organization is "working to protect":

Religious freedom; Medical freedom; Parental rights; Educational freedom, whether in public, private, or home schools; First Amendment rights; Second Amendment rights; Free enterprise/capitalism, unencumbered by government regulation; Military service members and Veterans' rights, including veteran healthcare in and out of the service; Environmental safety, especially the removal of radiological and chemical toxins; Food safety

Can someone please go check on the Santa Monica Film Festival and make sure they're alright? Because these films that they've platformed are so full of dangerous disinformation and conspiracy theorizing, it's a stretch—at best—to call them documentaries. It seems clear that the Santa Monica Film Festival is fully red-pilled now. I sure hope other film festivals don't follow suit.

For more analysis of the film festival, check out Conspirituality Podcast's episode, "Plandemic Takes the Promenade."

Previously: Here are the four stages of how conspiracy theories spread across social media