London Labour Film Festival 2015: Holding a mirror to working life
It’s very exciting for me to be back in the London Labour Film Festival programme this year (24-26 Sep 2015), as I participated actively in the first festival back in 2012. The LLFF is one of over three-dozen labour film festivals around the world. Such festivals provide an essential service in bringing labour films to the activists among us, but also to the general public who sometimes don’t quite get what we mean when we talk about labour film.
The age of globalisation often means exporting capital around the world to take advantage of low-paying workers in the Third World and The LLFF’s selection of films seeks to hold a mirror to that. Thus, showing in our festival, we have stories of immigrant workers and construction workers in Los Angeles, miners in Wales, fast food workers in Appalachia and many workers who can now be classified as members of the precariat.
The precariat is a vast global workforce whose transitory relationship with their employers makes their jobs at risk of termination at any time. They are migrant workers, child labourers, temps, food industry workers, retail clerks, seasonal workers, ‘illegal’ immigrants, as well as the army of house cleaners, nannies and domestic servants.
Three of our films take up issues of precarious labor. Bread and Roses skilfully dramatises the intricate twists and turns illegal immigrants in the USA have to master to stay employed. The Divide, a remarkable exploration of mostly working-class people around the world, isolates the tremendous anxiety and fear that accompanies workers, be they a carer in Newcastle or a KFC worker in Richmond, Virginia. And while not all the characters in the post-alien Los Angeles in They Live are working class, the issues of economic control and popular resistance are crucial to the plot.
Two of our films point to the importance of working-class struggles beyond the purely economic. Pride, set during the Miners’ Strike of 1984, focuses on a Conservative government as the enemy of both miners and gays. Similarly, Greece: The End of Austerity examines how a Greek response to cuts goes beyond the tension of a German-controlled Euro.
I recommended Compliance for our festival for its dramatisation of what the low-wage workers of the world endure at the hands of tyrannical supervisors. The fact of such universal ‘compliance’ among fast food supervisors (not to mention low-paid workers afraid of losing their jobs) indicates the pervasive indignities that traumatize millions of low wage workers in a world where a routine bathroom break becomes a coveted goal.
See as many of these films as you can. It’s time for labour’s dreams to take the screen.
The LLFF runs from 24 to 26 September in the Arthouse Cinema, Crouch End, London. See the programme and book tickets now at londonlabourfilmfest.com