[Left] Professor Kathryn Millard. [Right] A scene from Shock Room.
[Left] Professor Kathryn Millard. [Right] A scene from Shock Room.

Best film reveals shocking truth about human behaviour

Congratulations to Professor Kathryn Millard who won Best Australian Feature Documentary at the Antenna Documentary Film Festival for her film Shock Room, which turns a light on the dark side of human behaviour.

The film challenges Stanley Milgram’s controversial ‘Obedience to Authority’ experiment. In the wake of the Holocaust, Milgram wanted to understand how we respond when asked to do something that conflicts with our conscience. He concluded most of us will harm others if asked to do so. Kathryn says Milgram’s own documentary Obedience stayed with her, prompting her to conduct her own research into these experiments. Professors of psychology Alex Haslam and Stephen Reicher consulted and appear in the film.

“Milgram’s experiment has had an enduring impact. It is continually drawn on to support the idea most of us will harm others if asked to do so. I thought it was important to challenge this idea. There is lots of evidence to the contrary, including in Milgram’s own data and filmed records,” says Kathryn. “Most people actually resisted.”

“Plus, the experiment is particularly dramatic. It is as much art as science. I ​wanted to bring it alive for contemporary audiences,” she adds.

Shock Room, which combines hyper-real performances, animation, archival film and interviews, is the major output of an ARC Discovery, led by Kathryn. The project attracted post-production investment from industry partners.

“This film could not have been made without the support of Macquarie. ​Increasingly, there are not the resources in the screen industries to undertake the level of in-depth research and formal experimentation required for a project like this,” she says. “Macquarie contributed state-of-the-art facilities and academic and technical expertise.”

After working very hard to get the film in front of audiences, Kathryn will bring more psychological experiments to the screen.

“I plan to build on this project by working with teams across the arts and sciences to tackle some of social psychology’s classic experiments via screen media,” she concluded.

Learn more about Professor Kathryn Millard’s research, and watch the Shock Room trailer.