Monday, 21 December 2009
At 56a Infoshop
Bostrobalikara - Garment Girls of Bangladesh (60m) + other short clips
A documentary by Tanvir Mokammel
Plus introductory talk about the struggles in Bangladesh.
A common sight in the streets of Dhaka is the parade of young women and girls going to and from work in garment factories. These girls, who number about 2 million, work in the most successful manufacturing industry that Bangladesh has. Their labour brings in the biggest proportion of trade income. On their toil rests the livelihoods of millions of others. Their importance to the Bangladesh economy is incalculable.
This phenomenal success echoes Bengal of hundreds of years ago when its Muslin industry was ascendant. Nevertheless the garment industry is faced with uncertainties and difficulties. Most pressing are issues concerning wages and safe working conditions, future investment and the international trade environment. Symptomatic of these problems have been the long succession of factory catastrophes, and the widespread worker disturbances of May and June 2006. How will the various stakeholders, including the state, the foreign buyers and the successful entrepreneurs, respond to the challenges ahead? Will the industry lose its "sweatshop" image?
"What made you do a film on the garment workers?
I have been watching these garment girls for the last two decades. Like any conscientious person in contemporary Bangladesh, I have deep sympathy for this hardworking, silent army of working girls who walk up to their factories at dawn and return, often very late at time. They are very conspicuous as a social group on the streets of Dhaka, Narayanganj and Chittagong. We know they are very low paid, and they receive very little respect from the mainstream community. I once wrote a poem about these BOSTROBALIKARA. I wanted to make this film with the aim to sensitize concerned people about their plight, which, in turn, may help achieve better wages and more respect for these hapless girls."
From 'Interview with Tanvir Mokammel'
Strike, Riot and Fire Among the Garment Workers - A Working Class Revolt in Bangladesh
Mass working class revolt has been raging in Bangladesh for several months: garment workers fighting for improved wages and conditions... Farmers fighting destruction of their livelihoods by open cast mining... Mass insurrection against power cuts...
This pamphlet attempts to cut through the dominant media chatter of ‘clash of civilizations/cultures’ and ‘religious resurgence/fundamentalism’ and to show instead the real substance of social conflict, where the exploited begin to actively control their struggles rather than just being pawns manipulated by various political or religious factions
A pamphlet published by 56a Infoshop in 2006
You can download this paginated background booklet here:
A 15 minute video; a workforce, 85% female, paid some of the lowest wages in the world; expressing some of the highest levels of class struggle in the world at present. Trade unions have very little influence or restraint on these struggles - they are self-organised by workers on the job. When strikes turn riotous, they often spread into the wider working class community.
The short compilation of clips with commentary is available here: http://libcom.org/history/video-machinists-against-machine-bangladeshi-garment-workers-struggles
Friday, 4 December 2009
At 56a Infoshop
WAGES OF FEAR, Henri Georges Clouzot , 1953 (131m)
“It’s like prison here. Easy to get in. ‘Make yourself at home.’ But there’s no way out.”
The Wages of Fear (Le Salaire de la peur) is a 1953 drama film directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, starring Yves Montand, and based on a 1950 novel by Georges Arnaud.
When a South American oil well owned by an American company catches fire, the company hires four European men, down on their luck, to drive two trucks over mountain dirt roads, while carrying the nitroglycerine needed to extinguish the fire.
The film centers on the fates of a handful of men who are stuck in a South American town. The town, Las Piedras, is isolated due to the surrounding desert but it maintains contact with the outside world through a small airport. The airfare, however, is beyond the means of the main characters (many of whom are also noncitizens without proper paperwork for work or travel). There is little opportunity for employment aside from the American corporation that dominates the town. The company, Southern Oil Company, called SOC, operates the nearby oil fields and owns a walled compound within the town. SOC is accused of unethical practices such as exploiting local workers and taking the law into its own hands.
The catalyst to the film’s action sequence is a massive fire at one of the SOC oil fields. The only means to extinguish the flames and cap the well is nitroglycerine. With short notice and lack of proper equipment, the only means of transportation are jerrycans placed in two large trucks. Due to the poor condition of the roads and the highly volatile nature of nitroglycerine, the job is considered too dangerous for the unionized SOC employees.
The company recruits drivers from the local community. Despite the dangers, many of the locals volunteer, lured by the high pay: US$2,000 per driver. This is a fortune to them, and the money is seen by some as the only way out of their dead-end lives.
Sunday, 25 October 2009
At 56a Infoshop
OUR DAILY BREAD, Nikolaus Geyrhalter, 2005 (92m) + short
"Today, every worker is only working on one special part of the body, with always the same movement of the hand. There is no interference between the different sectors. For the workers it’s a normal work and most of them are happy to have a job".
Semen to pigs / Pigs to meat / Semen to cows / Cows to meat / Cows to milk / Eggs to chickens / Chickens to eggs / Chickens to meat / Fish / Crops and field harvests / Tomatoes in rock wool / Salads night harvest / Peppers / Cucumbers / Apples / Olives harvest / Salt from mines
Nikolaus Geyrhalter in an interview with Silvia Burner
OUR DAILY BREAD, like all your films, doesn’t have voice-over commentary, but in this case, there aren’t any interviews either.
I imagine my films mainly in continuous tracking shots which also contain scenes with interviews. In this case worlds of work which can stand alone are shown. The people work in spaces which are otherwise empty, and there’s not much talking while they work. At the beginning we conducted a number of interviews. During the editing, which Wolfgang Widerhofer started while shooting was still going on, it turned out that these interviews tend to disturb, and interrupt, the perception of the film. We then decided on the more radical form as it’s more appropriate for the way the footage was shot. The intention is to show actual working situations and provide enough space for thoughts and associations in long sequences. The viewers should just plunge into this world and form their own opinions.
There’s no information about specific companies or data.
It’s irrelevant for this film whether a company that produces baby chicks is located in Austria, Spain or Poland, or how many pigs are processed every year in the big slaughterhouse that’s shown. In my opinion that’s done by journalists and television, not a feature film. I also think that things are made too easy for me as a viewer when I’m spoon fed information. That moves me briefly, gets me worked up, but then it can be put into perspective quickly, and it works like all the other sensational news that bombards us day after day because that kind of thing sells newspapers - and it also dulls our perception of the world. In this film a look behind the structures is permitted, time’s provided to take in sounds and images, and it’s possible to think about the world where our basic foodstuffs are produced, which is normally ignored.
Interview with Wolfgang Widerhofer, Editor
"The film isn’t held together by people or places, it follows a different logic. It’s more of an episodic kind of thinking, an inspection, in both a spatial and temporal sense. An inspection that also comprises various cycles. The film includes themes without mentioning them explicitly: repetitive labour, automation, industrial production, and the brutality that it involves, the morality which comes into play when animals are killed, and so on. A number of discourses and approaches are set up in the film, but not so that the audience can leave the theater and say, “I learned this and that and this is what I have to do.”
Wednesday, 30 September 2009
At 56a Infoshop
HARLAN COUNTY USA, Barbara Kopple, 1976 (103m) + US labour short tbc
Barbara Kopple’s Academy Award–winning Harlan County USA unflinchingly documents a gruelling coal miners’ strike in a small Kentucky town. With unprecedented access, Kopple and her crew captured the miners’ sometimes violent struggles with strikebreakers, local police, and company thugs. Featuring a haunting soundtrack – with legendary country and bluegrass artists Hazel Dickens, Merle Travis, Sarah Gunning, and Florence Reece – the film is a heartbreaking record of the thirteen-month struggle between a community fighting to survive and a corporation dedicated to the bottom line.
Essay by Paul Arthur 'Harlan County USA: No Neutrals There', http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/422
A history of strikes at Harlan County from Labor Notes
From Cinemension blog - Harlan County USA trailer at this link: http://cinemension.blogspot.com/2009/02/harlan-county-usa.html
"These people worked for pennies, no benefits, no indoor plumbing, no medical or dental insurance (most of their teeth are rotting and falling out) and their homes would be considered condemned in any "normal" city...Basically all these people are fighting for are their basic, human rights. Coal mining is definitely one of the most dangerous and toughest jobs imaginable. The working conditions are unsafe, atrocious, filthy and miserable".
Sunday, 30 August 2009
At 56a Infoshop
MAN PUSH CART, Ramin Bahrani, 2005 (87mins)
Man Push Cart is a 2005 American independent film by Ramin Bahrani that tells the story of a former Pakistani rock star who now sells coffee and donuts from his push cart on the streets of Manhattan.
Every night while the city sleeps, Ahmad, a Pakistani immigrant, struggles to drag his heavy cart along the streets of New York to his corner in Midtown Manhattan. And every morning, from inside his cart he sells coffee and donuts to a city he cannot call his own. On his free time Ahmad Razvi sells pornographic DVDs. He lives a hard life, drinks Heineken and smokes Parliament cigarettes and goes to clubs. Like the workers found on every street corner in every city, he is a man who wonders if he will ever escape his fate.
BOROM SARRET, Ousmane Sembene (20mins)
Borom Sarret was the cinematic debut of Senegalese novelist and Moscow-trained filmmaker Ousmane Sembene - and also represents the earliest film directed by an indigenous filmmaker in sub-Sahara Africa.
Borom Sarret opens to the stark emptiness of a black screen, evocatively filled by the sound of a solemn, mystical tribal chant incanted amid the asynchrony of a blunt, rhythmic beat. The darkness subsequently reveals a high contrast, daylight shot of the impoverished native quarters, cutting to a shot of the supplicant (Ly Abdoulaye) praying for benediction in the foreground with his wife silently toiling in the background, as the pair assiduously perform their disparate (and intrinsically revelatory) rituals at the break of dawn.
Retrieving his family's sole possession - the horse Albourah - from a clearing, the unnamed man then leaves to fetch his wooden cart in order to earn a paltry income as a borom sarret, (a derivative of the French term bonhomme charret), a horse-cart driver for hire operating around the native quarters of Dakar, often picking up equally destitute passengers who can only offer an indebted (and indefinite) promise of payment or a wordless, ambiguous handshake in lieu of the fare. Nevertheless, the day seemingly turns auspicious as actual paying customers begin to hire his services - an overloaded delivery of construction concrete blocks and an expectant couple hurrying to the hospital for the birth of their child - begin to replace the destitute early morning commuters (and presumptuous hitchhikers) catching a free ride to the main town square.
With earned money in hand, he decides to stop at an intersection in order to enjoy the idyllic morning, eat his meager kola nut lunch, and tend to a persistently squeaking wheel on his cart before being distracted by the uplifting voice of a traditional singer performing on the street. The singer's ancient tales enhearten the borom sarret, evoking images of his ancestral family's nobility and former glory, and in an act of impulsive and negligent pride, magnanimously hands over his entire earnings to the charismatic singer. Now running out of time and anxious to recuperate his lost income, the desperate borom sarret begins to accept a series of desperate and dubious passengers, and soon finds himself driving his outmoded, derelict cart into the modernized - and forbidden - hillside colonial-era community appropriately called the Heights.
Wednesday, 5 August 2009
Thursday, 2 July 2009
5pm at 56a Infoshop
À Nous la Liberté
Rene Clair, 1931, 97 mins
À nous la liberté is a landmark in the history of film comedy and sound film. Back in 1931 when almost all film directors in every country were cautiously using the new technology as a recording medium, Clair, with the help of Georges Auric's musical score, was exploring it as a creative medium. Throughout the film we see and hear many unusual sound effects and uses of recorded sound: the "sound" of assembly line mechanization done through music (using xylophones, among other instruments), aural flashbacks, singing flowers and more.
The film opens with an image of a wooden toy horse. Gradually we observe that this is an assembly line in a prison, staffed by prisoners. They sing (La liberté, c'est pour les heureux = "Freedom is for the happy") as they work.
The film follows the paths of Louis and Émile. At the outset, they are convicts in prison, forced to work on an assembly line. They are separated when Louis manages to escape and eventually becomes the owner of a vast phonograph factory. Through a series of mishaps, Émile finds himself working at the factory (initially not realizing who owns it). The friends reunite; while Émile tries to pursue a love interest (never realized), Louis is threatened by former convicts from the prison, now gangsters. The film climaxes at the dedication of Louis's new phonograph factory, where everyone chases after money which one of the gangsters had stolen from Louis. The film ends with Louis and Émile as tramps, extolling the virtues of freedom.
À nous la liberté clearly identifies the factory, school, and family as focal points of ideological domination. A seamless juxtaposition of the ideology of work and conformist pedagogy is achieved with one of the most celebrated shock cuts in early sound cinema. As Émile languishes in a grassy field within sight of factory chimneys, a disapproving policeman reproves him with the words 'Not working. Don't you know that...' - a sentence fragment that is finished by a schoolmaster dictating the words 'work is compulsory' to his captive class. After the camera tracks back to reveal a row of bored pre-pubescent children, the teacher continues his dead-pan dictation with the words 'because work is freedom'.
From Richard Porton's 'Film and The Anarchist Imagination' called 'Anarcho-Syndicalism and Revolt Against Work' that has a big chunk on Rene Clair and this film:
Monday, 8 June 2009
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1962, 92 mins.
Based on the experimental fiction of postwar novelist Kobo Abe, Pitfall is a haunting, spare, and elemental, yet surreal and atmospheric portrait of alienation. Teshigahara weaves actual footage of coal miners and their hungry and desperate families into Pitfall to establish his sympathy for the workers, but do not expect a neo-realist call to arms.
The Plot of the film
Pitfall is set against the background of labour relations in the Japanese mining industry, but the film owes as much to surrealism as it does to "socially aware" drama. The mine in the film is divided into two pits, the old one and the new one, each represented by a different trade union faction. A mysterious man in white, whose identity we never learn, murders an unemployed miner who bears an uncanny resemblance to the union leader at the old pit and bribes the only witness to frame the union leader of the new pit. The two union leaders go to the murder scene to investigate only to come across the body of the witness, who has subsequently been killed by the man in white. They blame one another and begin a fight which ends in both their deaths. The film ends with the man in white observing them before riding off on his motorcycle, satisfied his mission is complete. Beyond this realistic plot, Pitfall shows us the realm of the dead as well as the living, as the ghosts of the victims look on, powerless to intervene in events and bring the truth to light.
It has been argued that the social and political concerns are almost secondary to the real ambition of Abe and Teshigahara, which is to create a narrative that operates on the level of a dream—or a nightmare. Nonetheless the film has a powerful resonance with the decades of struggles in Japan that followed World War II. One of most central of these being the Mitsui Corporation's Miike Coal Mine, where workers gradually built a powerful union during the early 1950s. Another being the wave of student and worker mass protests against ANPO - the Japan-US security treaty. These real world events pervade and haunt Teshigahara's film steeped as it is in an atmosphere of frustration, death and machinations over collective organisation.
19th May 1960: Japanese coal miners, wearing protective clothing, form a human barricade to prevent strikebreakers from entering the Mitsui Miike mine at Kumamoto.
Anti-ANPO protest, 1960?, Location unknown.
In 1951 Abe was organizing literary circles among factory workers, Abe was a member of the Communist Party while Teshigahara belonged to an artist’s circle called “Night Association” that Abe founded. Like Communists everywhere in the world during this period of Stalinism in crisis, both Teshigahara and Abe were beginning to become disenchanted at the time of Pitfall's making. Along with many other Japanese Communist artists and intellectuals, Abe ran afoul of the party leadership. Abe being among the 28 writers expelled in 1962.
Otoshiana, 1962 [The Pitfall]
Pitfall (On Abe and Teshigahara's political affiliations)
About the Japan-US Security Treaty
Short History of Japanese Left
Thursday, 23 April 2009
Sunday 17th MAY
3pm at 56a Infoshop
Directed by Ramin Bahrani, 2007. 84 min.
Chop Shop is an intimate story about a brother and sister who live and work in apart of Queens, New York. The duo, Ale and Isamar, barely survive on the margins of a neighborhood that is far removed from middleclass America . Our characters almost never leave this labyrinthine network of garages, mud and highway. Both characters are played by non-professional actors — both of them get to keep their first names for their characters.
The film begins with Ale doing random jobs, but he eventually secures a job at the eponymous chop shop (a car workshop) — his surly yet sympathetic owner allows him to live upstairs, in a room that just about fits a bed, a fridge and a microwave. Ale is so resourceful that he even gets his sister a job at a food stall. They have a shared dream: running a small business out of van; both are saving for this automobile that has become the crux of their redemption. To say money is a recurring motif would be stating the obvious, inbetween the scenes of Ale counting his money there is nothing but work. When there is not work, there is looking to get work. Deferring sentimental reflection neither Ale nor the director, Bahrani, have any time for distraction, there is only survival – live/work – a relentless vision of labouring, hustling bodies.
Monday, 16 March 2009
3pm at 56a Infoshop
Paris no longer exists. The destruction of Paris is only one striking example of the fatal illness that is currently wiping out all the major cities, and that illness is in turn only one of the numerous symptoms of the material decay of this society. But Paris had more to lose than any other. Bliss it was to be young in this city when for the last time it glowed with so intense a flame.
- Guy Debord, In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni
******THIS FILM IS ALSO BEING SHOWN 21st MARCH 2PM AT THE RIO CINEMA WITH GUEST SPEAKER (WRITER/FILM-MAKER) NEIL GRAY******
Marco Ferreri, Touche Pas a La Femme Blanche / Don’t Touch The White Woman! (FR, 1973) 109 mins.
Following in the wake of his first considerable success, La Grande Bouffe (1973), Italian filmmaker Marco Ferreri decided to reunite
his ensemble cast and commence filming his next feature, Don’t Touch The White Woman!, right in middle of “le trou des Halles”, a crater formed by the demolition of the ancient market quarter in the centre of Paris. The crater, with its jagged precipices, sculpted by excavation machinery and dynamite, oddly resembled the panoramic canyons depicted in classical westerns.
The plot revolves around a droll and war-crazed General Custer (Marcello Mastroianni), arriving in France with the mission of “pacifying” and removing the natives, in order to clear the area for the construction of railroads (which happens to be the same reason for the actual dismantling of old Les Halles). The location’s particularity provided the locus for Ferreri to apply his particular vision of combined histories by overlapping alternate times and spaces in recent U.S and French history. Thus the natives stand in for the poor inhabitants of Paris, but also refer to the insurgent Vietnamese and Algerians fighting colonial power. War and capitalism, financial speculation and state intervention are connected in a farcical costume drama enacted in midst of the very present creative destruction of urban Paris.">An essay on the film by Miljenko Skoknic:
Script of Debord's In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni:
Sunday, 15 March 2009
Michael Glawogger's film, Workingman's Death, makes the argument that in the 21st Century gruelling physical work has not disappeared completely but rather, by a post-fordist sleight of hand capital has shifted East and South away from a de-industrialising West to seek out cheaper labour in unregulated, non-unionised markets.
This online pamphlet seeks to raise the question of the representation of work. Bringing together two texts, one by Richard Pithouse and one by Sergio Bologna, each with completely opposing views of work, representation and social reproduction, this pamphlet is intended to critically question assumptions about an invisible but 'hegemonic' cognitariat labouring in the service economies of the Global North and an impoverished and aestheticised sub-proletariat labouring in the Global South.
Download the pamphlet
Sunday, 8 March 2009
3pm at 56A Infoshop
Is heavy manual labor disappearing or is it just becoming invisible?
Where can we still find it in the 21st century?
Workingman's Death follows the trail of the HEROES in the illegal mines of the Ukraine, sniffs out GHOST among the sulfur workers in Indonesia, finds itself face to face with LIONS at a slaughterhouse in Nigeria, mingles with BROTHERS as they cut a huge oil tanker into pieces in Pakistan, and joins Chinese steel workers in hoping for a glorious FUTURE.
Meanwhile, the future is now in Germany, where a major smelting plant
of bygone days has been converted into a bright and shiny leisure park.
Work can be many things. Often it is barely visible; sometimes,
difficult to explain;and in many cases, impossible to portray.
Hard manual labor is visible, explainable, portrayable.
This is why I often think of it as the only real work.
Concept and Realization: Michael Glawogger (FILMOGRAPHY)
Austria/Germany 2005 / 122 Min. / 35mm / 1:1,85 / color / DOLBY SRD-EX
Produced by: Lotus Film GmbH/Vienna and Quinte Film/Freiburg
with arte G.E.I.E.