Doc Zone

Robots that kill. In the movies, this scenario is presented as a future in which things have gone terribly wrong. But, as revealed in the new Zoot Pictures documentary REMOTE CONTROL WAR (CBC Television Doc Zone, Thursday, February 24 at 9 pm), such robots are no longer science fiction. 

From today’s CIA drone strikes to the next generation of armed autonomous robot swarms, killer robots are about to change our world. The question chillingly posed in REMOTE CONTROL WAR is how this shift will affect not only warfare….but mankind.

Robotic war is already here. Every evening in Indian Springs, Nevada, an hour outside of Las Vegas, a group of ordinary-looking men and women say goodbye to their families and go to war. They fight insurgents in Afghanistan and on the mountainous borders of Pakistan. They watch, they bomb, and they kill. Sometimes their vehicles crash, but the pilots always go home to their families in the morning. They are remote control warriors.

REMOTE CONTROL WAR illustrates how warfare is being revolutionized in a monumental shift unlike anything in our human history. The current campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan exemplify the world’s first Robotic War.  The American robotic fleet, almost non-existent when the US and its allies invaded Iraq in 2003, has today grown to number 7,000 robots in the air and 12,000 others on the ground.  Some 43 other countries, including Canada, are now using robots in combat.

Military robots are appealing: they save soldiers’ lives – avoiding the negative publicity of planes repeatedly returning home with flag-shrouded coffins.

But, as REMOTE CONTROL WAR shows us, today’s drones and robot tanks are like “the first horseless carriage” compared to new generations of robots already being developed. Robot warriors will soon move beyond taking directions – they will become autonomous, acting independently. Surveillance and other non-lethal tools will be turned into attack weapons, as the military reconfigures today’s R2-D2 and C-3PO into RoboCop and Terminator. We see in the film how this is already happening.

REMOTE CONTROL WAR producers Leif Kaldor and Leslea Mair of Regina-based Zoot Pictures hunt down the most up-to-date information on military robotics. They travel to Europe, Israel and across North America, gaining entry to the Pentagon, robotic production facilities and cutting-edge research laboratories. While discovering the latest technology, they pose the serious ethical questions we need to ask: When robots are used to kill human beings, what are the new rules of engagement?

Robots only have the ethics with which they are programmed, and human/robot wars raise many ethical questions.  Does the ability to kill anyone, anywhere, using a robot, amount to lawlessness?  What happens when future robots can decide, on their own, whom to kill?  Would the military send out an autonomous swarm of micro-robots to kill an enemy?  Will having no casualties on your own side make going to war too easy a decision?

The development and deployment of militarized robots also opens a Pandora’s Box. Currently, the West has the upper hand, but very soon, all sides will have access to remote control weapons.  In that frightening scenario, will robots become the future’s suicide bombers?

To contribute to our understanding of what is going on right now in the world of military robotics, and the implications of these developments, Kaldor and Mair talk to such knowledgeable experts and insiders as:

·    Lt. General David Deptula, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance

·    Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize winner

·    Peter W. Singer, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of the definitive book, Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century

·    Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine

·    David Rohde, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times investigative reporter

·    United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston

·    Noel Sharkey, Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at the University of Sheffield.

“This started as a documentary about military robots and ended up more like a science fiction film,” says REMOTE CONTROL WAR director Leif Kaldor. “The technology is almost unbelievable, yet very few people know there are thousands of robots on the battlefield right now, let alone what the next generation of lethal, autonomous robots will be capable of.”

Kaldor adds:  “When a leading roboticist tells you he wouldn’t be worried if we had Terminators because he’s far more concerned with the lethal, autonomous flying robot ‘swarms’ that are being developed and tested right now, you know this is something we’d better be aware of and talking about….soon!”

Following the CBC TV Main Network premiere on Thursday, February 24 at 9 pm, REMOTE CONTROL WAR will get two additional showings on CBC sister network, CBC News Network, on Friday, February 25 at 10 pm ET/PT, and on Sunday, February 27 at 5 pm ET and 8 pm ET.


For Canada’s animal shelters, this is not “the most wonderful time of the year”.   They know Santa will stuff a cute and cuddly kitten into thousands of Christmas stockings. But, by New Year’s Day, that little ball of fur is one giant nuisance. And so it will be dropped off at the shelter, or worse, dumped on the side of a rural road and left to fend for itself.  

Why do millions of cats live, quite literally, in the lap of luxury, while tens of millions more are abandoned to lead short, miserable lives?

CAT CRAZED, premiering on CBC Doc Zone Thursday, January 6 at 9:00 pm (9:30 pm NT) is a light-hearted search for sanity in a cat-obsessed world, looking beyond the myths and absurd human behavior that’s at the root of the world’s cat overpopulation crisis to reach a new and more realistic relationship with felines.  

The film marries animation created by Oscar nominee Cordell Barker (The Cat Came Back) with classic documentary storytelling to deftly straddle the line between send-up and serious journalism. “Viewers are bombarded with dire stories of environmental disasters, so much so, sometimes they tune out. We believe this approach will entertain – and hit home,” says CAT CRAZED director Maureen Palmer.

“Anyone who has seen my first film, The Cat Came Back, may find it hard to believe I’m a cat lover. But I am,” says Oscar nominated animator Cordell Barker from his Winnipeg studio. “Ever since I made that film more than 20 years ago, I’ve seen the problem of abandoned cats grow exponentially. But we humans tend not to change our behavior when hammered over the head with a message. I think social satire and humour can accomplish so much more. That’s what I think CAT CRAZED best delivers.” 

The cat is the world’s most popular pet – and its most disposable. Some 100 million cats, domestic and wild, roam the North American landscape, wreaking havoc on native flora and fauna – and forcing well-meaning humans to take sides in a cat-bird war. It’s become clear that we don’t have a cat problem, we have a human problem. The species at the top of the food chain needs to get a grip on practical, humane solutions that can save the lives of both cats and birds.  

CAT CRAZED crisscrosses North America, introducing viewers to a fascinating cast of eclectic and eccentric cat-obsessed characters, visiting the giant Meet the Breeds Cats and Dogs Show in New York, where cat owners indulge in all manner of feline fascination, to Washington, where Alley Cat Allies – the world’s most powerful cat ladies – reveal their plans for world cat domination, to Los Angeles, where Fix Nation plans mass cat sterilization, and finally to Texas, where they shoot cats, don’t they? 

In Canada, we visit the world’s largest no-kill shelter in Richmond, BC, home to 1000 cats, learn what happens to a small town mayor when social media savvy cat activists spread the word on his plans to euthanize the town’s feral cats, and meet the wild cats on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill. We witness groundbreaking research as even well-fed and neutered cats, caught on camera, commit bird carnage. And, finally, in Calgary, we discover a ridiculously simple, yet radical, made-in-Canada solution that has taken the animal rescue world by storm: license cats the way we do dogs. 

CAT CRAZED celebrates our love affair with felines and encourages a new relationship where all cats are loved and none are abandoned. 

Following the CBC TV Main Network premiere on Thursday, January 6 at 9 pm, CAT CRAZED will get two additional showings on sister network CBC News Network, Friday, January 7 at 10 pm ET/PT, and on Sunday, January 9 at 5 pm ET/PT.  

To view the CAT CRAZED trailer, please go to: 

CAT CRAZED is directed by Maureen Palmer and written and produced by Maureen Palmer and Helen Slinger. Animation by Cordell Barker; Editor is Tim Wanlin; Director of Photography is John Collins; Composer is Graeme Coleman; Sound Design by J. Martin Taylor; Motion Graphic Design by Tiz Beretta; and Trailer Editor is Hart Snider. The film is narrated by Ann-Marie MacDonald. For CBC’s Independent Documentary Unit: Linda Laughlin, Senior Producer; Michael Claydon, Area Executive Producer. Mark Starowicz is Executive Director, Documentary Programming.

CAT CRAZED is produced by Bountiful Films in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and with the participation of the Canadian Media Fund (CMF), Province of British Columbia Film Incentive BC, and the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit. 

Bountiful Films was formed in 2001 by Vancouver-based filmmakers Helen Slinger and Maureen Palmer to produce Leaving Bountiful, the story of one woman’s courageous flight from the fundamentalist Mormon polygamous colony of Bountiful, British Columbia. Since then, Bountiful Films has specialized in documentaries which capture compelling characters as they confront contemporary challenges. Recent titles include How to Divorce & Not Wreck the Kids and Mounties Under Fire for CBC’s Doc Zone, and The Bully’s Mark, Polygamy’s Lost Boys and Alexandra’s Echo for Global Television. In addition to CAT CRAZED, Bountiful Film’s remarkable new documentary When the Devil Knocks will premiere early in 2011 on CBC TV’s The Passionate Eye. The film, which accessed hours of rare and exclusive videotaped therapy sessions, is a spellbinding journey into one of psychiatry’s most intriguing conditions, Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder. The film was screened in Fall 2010 at the Vancouver International Film Festival.


Can re-engineering the climate save us from global warming? That’s one of the intriguing questions DOC ZONE explores Nov. 18 and 25, on CBC Television, while THE NATURE OF THINGS WITH DAVID SUZUKI investigates the imminent risk of earthquakes on the Pacific Rim, and visits some very angry volcanoes—including Merapi, the most active in Indonesia.

As the threat of climate change grows more urgent, scientists are considering radical ways to avert a planetary meltdown. Premiering on DOC ZONE, Thursday, Nov. 25 at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), Playing God With Planet Earth explores such controversial ideas as salting the ocean with iron particles to trigger plankton blooms, genetically engineering “robo trees” to suck carbon from the air, and mimicking the effects of a volcanic eruption. These extraordinary schemes just might work…or, they could lead to drought, mass starvation and even war.    

The week before, on Thursday, Nov. 18, at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), DOC ZONE asks Are We Digital Dummies? This provocative documentary explores how our love affair with technology is overloading our ancient brains. In becoming information rich, we’ve become attention poor. The defining condition of our age may well be chronic distraction. Can we manage the technology around us—or will we let it manage us?

In the five-part documentary series Geologic Journey II, THE NATURE OF THINGS WITH DAVID SUZUKI has followed some of the world’s leading geologists around the globe, as they decipher the mysteries of the Earth’s evolution. Now, in the series’ final two episodes, the story of where the earth has been and what the earth shall be—a whole new world we’ll barely recognize—concludes.

Episode 4, The Pacific Rim: Americas, Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT), takes viewers to one of the most unpredictable regions in the world—along the western shore of North and South America, from Alaska to California to Chile—discovering how tectonic rhythms threaten the people living along the two continents’ coastlines. Chile was the site of this year’s largest reported earthquake, and is the site of the world’s largest reported earthquake ever, in 1960. And according to a recent study, Chile’s Chaiten volcano, also featured in this episode, is growing at a rate of 60 cubic metres every second—it began to erupt again in 2008 after being dormant for nearly 9,000 years.

Episode 5, The Collision Zone: Asia, Nov. 25 at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT), travels to the peak of Merapi, the most active volcano in Indonesia. Geologist Nick Eyles says, “We climbed to the top of Merapi, and the signs were obvious… a very angry volcano.” Within the last week, Merapi eruptions have forced evacuations of nearly 75,000 people. The final episode in the series also explores the fractured history of the Eastern world’s geological battleground: the fiery unpredictability of Indonesia’s volcanoes at one end, the massive Himalayas at the other, and millions of years of tectonic tension in between.

The secret history of the global financial collapse kicks off a new season of CBC Television’s flagship documentary series, Doc Zone, with the first instalment of the four-part series MELTDOWN, on Sept. 9 at 9 p.m. (9:30 p.m. NT).  

Trillions of dollars have been spent jump-starting economies and rescuing financial institutions over the past two years, and yet the financial collapse that started in 2008 continues to send shock waves around the globe. Now, MELTDOWN traces the stories of the bankers who crashed the world, the leaders who struggled to save it—and the ordinary families who got crushed.

The CBC’s Terence McKenna takes viewers behind the headlines and behind the scenes—into the backrooms of the highest levels of governments and financial institutions from Wall Street to Dubai to China—and reveals the backstabbing and the tension as the world comes dangerously close to another Great Depression.

MELTDOWN’s cast of characters includes Geraint Anderson, a.k.a. City Boy, a hippie-turned-stockbroker in England who reveals the dirty secrets of high finance; Dick Fuld, the former CEO of Lehman Brothers, who boasted that he would rip out and eat his enemies’ hearts, but watched his own empire collapse; and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the self-styled CEO of Dubai Inc., who built a real estate empire that turned out to be largely a mirage.

Viewers will also meet desperate homeowners in California, disillusioned autoworkers at the end of the line in Ontario, and furious workers in France who shocked the world by kidnapping their own bosses. To date, no major banking, regulatory or government figures have been convicted of any wrongdoing.

Hosted by Ann-Marie MacDonald, Doc Zone airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. (9:30 p.m. NT) on CBC Television and Fridays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBC News Network. Following MELTDOWN, which airs on Sept. 9, 16, 23 and 30, Doc Zone continues with such ground-breaking new documentaries as WE SHALL REMEMBER THEM, a Remembrance Day special that profiles Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan; THOROUGHLY MODERN MARRIAGE, a look at how an ages-old institution has endured and evolved into the 21st century; and MIRACLE PRODUCTS, which puts to the scientific test the panoply of potions and gadgets that promise to defy aging—can these things possibly work?

On Feb. 23, 1909, the Silver Dart took off from Baddeck Bay in Cape Breton, N.S.—and made history as the first powered flight in Canada. To celebrate the centennial, CBC Television and Radio-Canada have joined forces to bring viewers CANADA ABOVE AND BEYOND: 100 Years of Aviation, a fascinating four-part documentary series that explores the revolutionary impact of flight on this country. The series kicks off a new season of DOC ZONE, Thursday, Oct. 8, at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT), on CBC Television.

Filmed in high-definition, CANADA ABOVE AND BEYOND captures extraordinary stories of flight told by passionate individuals—from fighter pilots learning to navigate CF-18 jets in Cold Lake, Alta. to a dedicated paediatrician who flies to remote native communities to treat young patients.

In episode one, First Flight, viewers meet an excited six-year-old boy awaiting his first experience on a plane as he sets off from Toronto bound for St. Lucia. Track superstar and Olympic medal winner Bruny Surin relives his very first flight from his native Haiti to a freezing cold Canada—a trip that changed his life forever. The filmmakers also follow a group of retired aviation experts and engineers who are trying to recapture the magic of that first flight 100 years ago, by crafting a replica of the Silver Dart and praying it will fly.

From the very beginning, flight in Canada would produce formidable challenges and limitless possibilities. In Conquering Geography, airing Thursday, Oct. 15, at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT), on CBC Television, viewers experience the stories of courageous pilots who are trained to fly in extreme conditions, put out forest fires and map the backcountry from the air. Canadians have developed unique technologies and exceptional skills when it comes to flying in forbidding conditions.

Lifelines, airing Thursday, Oct. 22, at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT), on CBC Television, introduces viewers to remarkable individuals who offer hope from the sky, at home and abroad. Featured in this episode is a Montreal paediatrician who is both passionate about flying and devoted to her many young patients who live in tiny remote communities in Ungava Bay, Que. This episode also takes viewers along for the ride with the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to parts of the world struck by natural disasters. The cameras also follow an airborne medical unit as it crosses the globe to bring home Canadians struck by illness.

A must-watch for thrill-seekers, Dancing with Danger, airing Thursday, Oct. 29, at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT), on CBC Television, explores the amazing stunts of men and women who dazzle audiences with aerial aerobatics. The world-famous Snowbirds demonstrate precision flying and share the secrets of their success. A ‘wing walker’ takes viewers on a dizzying ride, upside down!  Military and civilian test pilots put aeronautic flight systems through their paces and push aircraft to the limit. And, in a poignant interview, Captain Robert Piché, reflects on his death-defying landing of an Airbus 330 in 2001 when he glided the fuel-spent plane to safety in the Azores.

An encore presentation of CANADA ABOVE AND BEYOND: 100 Years of Aviation can be seen on CBC Newsworld, each Friday in October, at 10 p.m. ET/PT, beginning Friday, Oct. 9.

For more on the series, visit