2015

GREECE: THE END OF AUSTERITY

BREAD AND ROSES

COMPLIANCE

PRIDE

THE DIVIDE

BREAD AND ROSES

Dir: Ken Loach – 2000

Bread and Roses, one of the most compelling and honest labour films of the early twenty-first century, is set among the flow of illegal Latino immigrants into Los Angeles who join the army of workers who clean the city’s office buildings every night. Director Ken Loach tosses us right into the middle of the organising campaign called Justice for Janitors. Rosa, who is already working as a janitor and is married to an Anglo, and her sister Maya, who has just arrived in LA after a harrowing escape from a lascivious coyote, are confronted by Anglo organiser Sam who has targeted Maya’s building for recruitment. Ever since his very early Cathy Come Home, a study in worker downward mobility, Loach has continued to be (with Mike Leigh) the cinematic conscience of the British film industry.

PRIDE

Dir: Matthew Warchus – 2014

Pride: and speaking of Thatcher… director Warchus returns to the never-ending-wrong of her reign. – the attack on the National Union of Mineworkers. Pride is a dramatisation from the heart, countering many of the official historical lies about the Miners’ Strike as it tells the story of a brave posse of gay and lesbian activists who organised their own support and defence of the miners by realising Thatcher was their common enemy, and had to be fought. They organised a bus load of gays and lesbians, both brave and timid, and set off for the Welsh village of Onllwyn in the Dulais Valley where local villagers led by a cast of stars like Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton among other excellent actors welcome them into their struggle. This is a stand up and cheer film not to be missed.

GREECE: THE END OF AUSTERITY

Dir: Theopi Skarlatos – 2015

Discussable docs do not have to be ripped from the headlines, but director Skarlato’s valiant attempt to chronicle the twenty-two day ‘miracle’ campaign of the Syriza party’s victory that propelled Alexis Tsipras into the leadership as prime minister is so current that, as I type this, my iPhone news-feed is abuzz with the latest news about disagreements in the Syriza’s party leadership. The film documents the tremendous unease the Greeks feel about the Eurozone, particularly Germany’s leadership. From the very light (the Germans don’t like us, because we have sunshine and are happy) to the tense (the threat of privatisation of the docks that would lead to Chinese labour abuses), Skarlato tracks a country in turmoil.

COMPLIANCE

Dir: Craig Zobel – 2012

Compliance dramatises an event that will join the infamous Zimbardo and Milgrim experiments that indicated the tendency for people to obey orders even when they – it seems – must know they are immoral. Except the film’s events really happened at a McDonald’s restaurant in Kentucky when a worker was accused of stealing and then sexually harassed because her supervisor believed a phone caller was a policeman. Director Craig Zobel casts Dreama Walker as an innocent teenage worker harassed for hours at a fictitious fast food place called ChickWich. Audiences have squirmed and screamed during this intense drama of the risks associated with low-wage work.

THE DIVIDE

Dir: Katharine Round – 2015

The Divide: A true globalisation film, this time, however, mostly from the bottom up, as director Katharine Round follows seven individuals, all of whom face the great “divide” – between those who are poor or are the working poor or the struggling middle class on one side and the plutocrats and one might add their governmental apologists – American presidents to be sure and of course The Thatcher – on the other side. On either side of “the divide” is one Wal-Mart worker who says she “might be living under a bridge next week” and the kind of rich person who can say to anyone, to eff you, mate, I’ve got all the money! We even meet a therapist who specialises in fragile Wall Street egos, the real “casualties of Wall Street,” he suggests because they work so hard and so uncertainly for their money. Very rarely does a film ask so many important contemporary questions that those in power ignore.