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Secrets of Silicon Valley

Shocking exposé of the hidden downsides of the Internet revolution.

A printer-friendly version of this page 60 minutes
Closed Captioned

Directed by Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman
Produced by Snitow-Kaufman Productions
Edited by Jennifer Chinlund

SECRETS OF SILICON VALLEY is a shocking exposé of the hidden downsides of the Internet revolution and also a funny and moving meditation on America's love affair with technology. Told without narration, the film chronicles a tumultuous year in the lives of two young activists grappling with rapid social change and the meaning of globalization on their own doorsteps.

Magda Escobar runs Plugged In, a computer training center in a low income community just a few miles from the epicenter of high-tech wealth. Silicon Valley's skyrocketing rents and increasing evictions are driving out the people she is supposed to serve, but Magda struggles to find Plugged In a new home and receives unexpected help from President Clinton and Hewlett-Packard.

Raj Jayadev is a temporary worker who confronts the hype of Silicon Valley by revealing the reality of an unseen and unacknowledged army of immigrant workers. Hired by the world's largest temporary agency, Manpower, Inc., to work in a Hewlett-Packard assembly plant, he is laid off when he organizes other "temps" to challenge health and safety conditions. But Raj finds surprising and funny ways to take the controversy to the Internet, the public and the press.

Throughout the film, high tech CEO's and moguls comment on Magda and Raj's stories with revealing insights on time, technology, greed, and globalization.

Part "Modern Times," part "Bladerunner," this is the first and only film to take a critical look at the social impact of the new millenium's high technology.

The producers have put together a list of useful resources and links which can be found at

Note: An excellent and attractive new study guide has just been completed.

Grade Level: Grades 9-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2001     Copyright Date: 2001
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-235-1     VHS ISBN: 1-56029-891-X

"With humor, moral outrage and surprising access to high-ranking industry executives, this powerful film shows how high tech workers often face health endangering chemicals, money-laundering temp agencies, and dismissal if they organize for better treatment."
Mike Blain, President, Washington Alliance of Technology Workers/CWA

"Pulls back the curtain in the Land of Oz, exposing the dark side of this 'miracle' of capitalism. No one can watch this wonderful, penetrating documentary and not be moved to action."
Robin D.G. Kelley, Professor of History, NYU, author of Race Rebels and Hammer and Hoe

"A compelling reality check -- piercing and powerful. SECRETS OF SILICON VALLEY is an evocative, intelligent film that offers an unvarnished look at the New Gilded Age."
Vicki L. Ruiz, Professor, Chicana Studies, University of Arizona

"Tells it like it is. The 'Golden Age' of Technology is not benefiting all of us, but instead driving us apart -- widening the gap between the haves and the have nots. This movie should be seen by everyone who cares about democracy -- who believes that the fruits of the new technology should be available to everyone."
Bob Burnett, former Vice President Cisco Systems, Publisher of In These Times Magazine

"Impressive, bittersweet, and smart...a compelling portrait of two young community leaders confronting the digital divide and accelerating corporate globalization. This film will speak to and be moving for a wide range of audiences."
Chuck Collins, United for a Fair Economy, author of Economic Apartheid in America

"An illuminating peek into the hidden world of high tech sweatshops. It's a photoflash insight into new forms of community organization, worker and social activism. A prophetic glimpse of the next labor movement."
Elaine Bernard, Executive Director, Harvard University Trade Union Program

"A pungent if sympathetic look at the undersung, underpaid hordes of blue-collar workers who do technology's dirty work."

"Snitow and Kaufman's finely conceived film reminded me of Michael Harrington's book The Other America, which served as a reminder that hundreds of thousands of people still live in abject poverty."
Annalee Newitz, Tech Columnist, San Francisco Bay Guardian

"As the film makes clear, Silicon Valley is not only a crucible for technological development; it is (or at least was until the end of the tech-stock boom) also an expression of capitalism at its crudest, most market-driven, most anti-union and least subject to even minimal government intervention. That means that while there is money galore to be made and spent by the elite, little or no attention is paid to the health of the community as a whole."
The (London) Independent

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Secrets of Silicon Valley

"A great documentary. This could be the new Harvest of Shame." Alex Bennett, C-Net Radio

The Producers' Website
Study guide

Awards and Festivals
National PBS Broadcast on "Independent Lens"
Bronze Plaque, Columbus International Film Festival
Vermont International Film Festival
Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival
Fine Arts Cinema, Berkeley
Rafael Film Center, San Rafael
Towne Theatre, San Jose
Boston Museum of Fine Arts
UALE Conference, Boston
Seattle Art Museum

American Studies
Business Practices
Labor and Work Issues


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... more Reviews

"Secrets of Silicon Valley will make you think, reflect, discuss, argue. You won't be seeing this on the network news."
Jan Wahl, KCBS Radio

"An excellent video for sociology courses concerned with worker's rights, social stratification, or globalization."
Susan M. Alexander, Assoc. Prof., Dept. of Sociology, Saint Mary's College

"Fascinating, and extremely valuable for its look at the not-so-pretty side, the dark side of that high-tech paradise called Silicon Valley."
MC Journal

"This powerful film is highly recommended for academic, public, and high school libraries."
Library Journal

"Intriguing exposé suitable for high school students or interested adults."

"A fine, high-quality film, crisp in presentation with compelling musical background, a quite professional and aesthetically pleasing piece of work... In a nicely presented series of interviews with workers, the film explores the realities of low wages, temporary Manpower employment, inaccessible benefits, and weak health and safety protections for a workforce made up almost exclusively of minorities, immigrants and women."
Lowell Turner, Cornell University-NYSILR for Labor Studies Journal

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