2016

SILKWOOD

WHERE TO INVADE NEXT?

MINING POEMS OR ODES

OPERATOR

THE 33

GIRLHOOD

THE JUDGEMENT

7 CHINESE BROTHERS

WHERE TO INVADE NEXT?

Dir: Michael Moore – 2015

Having spent 25 years making films defending ordinary people, Moore is now one of the 100 most influential people alive according to Time Magazine. Moore now follows up Capitalism: A Love Story with Where to Invade Next, in which the formidable filmmaker tours the world to investigate what the USA could learn from other countries. Discovering that Italian workers get paid holidays and parental leave; Finland’s students have no homework; Slovenians don’t pay for university; and that Tunisian women have access to abortion, he also goes to Iceland, where women hold top governmental positions whilst (mostly male) bankers are prosecuted, in a brilliant film about people before profit

OPERATOR

Dir: Carolyn Bartlet – 2015

Carolyn Bartlett’s film zeroes in on the face of one Fire and Rescue Service centre operator (Kate Dickie), helping a distraught woman calling in a fire trapping her and her daughter. Calmly directing the woman around the room, getting her to open a window, spread a duvet under the door, and keeping her from going off the rails, the operator’s voice is one we all hope we never have to hear. But it’s important to know she’s out there, sponsored, like the film, by the Fire Brigades Union, “the professional voice of your fire fighters.” Based on true events, this incredibly powerful film recently won a BAFTA.

A moving story of coolness under pressure, Operator was the worthy recipient of the Best Short Film BAFTA earlier this year. But it is more than just a great drama. This tale of a 999 call taken by a fire service operator played by Kate Dickie is based on a true story, in which an operator rescued a woman and her child from a house fire. It speaks to the vital role played by public sector workers, and nobody is more convinced of this than the Fire Brigades Union, who supported the film. “The person who took the call was a member of ours…the filmmakers asked if we would do it in conjunction with them. It’s really powerful stuff, and it gives a really good insight into the role of a control operator: one minute they can be dealing with a false alarm, and the next they can be dealing with somebody who is speaking to try and save their own life”, says Dave Green, National Officer at the FBU. “They are regarded as the first line of response, and therefore fire fighters in their own right”, says Green when describing the job. “They have been under a lot of pressure with job cuts, therefore more calls. Response time is down by two minutes over the past two decades, so operators are left talking to people for a lot longer. Firefighters rescue people in teams, whereas an operator works on their own, so it’s amazingly pressurised.” Operators themselves (who form around 5% of the union) seem to be glad of the recognition, with incredibly positive reactions within the fire service. But is there wider recognition of the job these people do, especially from the government? “I don’t see any evidence of that,” Green says. “They’re still cutting back on the fire service, so we need to air Operator as many times as we can. But it will only have a positive effect if our employers and the government do something about it and support the fire service to a far greater degree. I’d like to think that a lot of people are increasingly concerned that all our public services are being starved of cash. Austerity is a political choice. If people watch this film, and if they want to do something they need to contact their MPs. At some point our communities will bitterly regret the actions of this government in cutting back not just on the fire service but on all public services, because we will be needed at some point”. Watching Operator, it’s very easy to understand why

THE JUDGEMENT

Dir: Stephan Komandarev – 2014

The waves of refugees being smuggled across our borders are now daily news. But how do these people make it to Europe through often hostile and unforgiving terrain? Whilst many refugee stories are told, we know less about the people who actually do the smuggling. This Bulgarian entry for Best Foreign Language Oscar follows Mityo who, having lost his wife, job and the respect of his son, takes up a job smuggling Syrian refugees across the very Bulgarian/Turkish/Greek border he prevented people crossing whilst in the army. A film about the impact of momentous decisions, and the hostile mountain terrain at the heart of an illegal industry

The plight of Syrian people is at the forefront of public consciousness. Experiencing danger and hardship, the number of people deciding to make the perilous crossing to Europe – often by illegal means – is only increasing. But the conditions of illegal trafficking, and the people who transport migrants to Europe, remains mysterious. Films like The Judgement, which has its UK premiere at this year’s London Labour Film Festival, can play a role in increasing understanding. “Industry only happens when the need is there”, says Ola Suliman, the Project Officer for the international charity Mayday Rescue. “Nobody would risk or pay something like 5000 Euros to cross to Europe if they didn’t have a horrible situation waiting for them. Anything is less horrifying than what they have back home…you can only drag them back home by defeating the horrible things that are happening there. “It’s an industry, nobody is a good person, nobody is trying to help”, says Suliman when asked about illegal trafficking, adding that it is the work of groups like Mayday Rescue, and the easing of conflict, that will ultimately defeat an exploitative industry. “What we can do is to support communities, so we have local communities who can protect themselves and become more resilient and save their own lives’ ‘, she says. Mayday Rescue works to provide local solutions, preventing loss of life and rebuilding local infrastructure like schools, hospitals, sewage systems and mosques, leaving local people with the experience and skills to rebuild. “We deal with local initiatives so there are local teams of volunteers rescuing people. Volunteers are local within every community; we don’t force strangers from different communities [upon them]. We trained them outside Syria in the beginning but now inside Syria”. The focus for now is protecting people from attacks. “Our approach in conflict areas is that we wait until it’s over, and then we start building infrastructure. But while it’s going on, especially where it’s been happening for a long time, people need some help to stay where they are. This is what our team does. They help them spread awareness, first aid, telling people what is the best way to survive an attack, early warning systems, how to make their own shelter and how to stay safe… and then we go and search for survivors“. The latter is done in conjunction with The White Helmets, a charity that specialises in rescuing injured victims in war zones. There are, of course, limits to how much people can be discouraged from fleeing. “We can only do so much…I’ve met many Syrian refugees who have come from Syria since the Russian intervention…when the Russian bombing started, the destruction became way worse. But everyday there’s a different sort of bombing, two days ago there was a chlorine attack…so the circumstances under which civil defences are trying to work is too much. But if they were ever to stop the aerial bombardment, then many people would go back immediately. We wish and the Syrian people wish that it was something we could control. More than anyone in the world, the Syrian people want to go back to their country. But the world doesn’t give them the circumstances for solutions that make them safe back home, so they will keep trafficking out.”

SILKWOOD

Dir: Mike Nichols – 1983

A cinematic classic, Silkwood is based on the true story of Karen Silkwood, a union activist for the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers in a Kerr-McGee plutonium processing plant. Guilty of dangerous, cancer-inducing contamination, Silkwood’s activism was seen as a sign of trouble. Believing that the company was tampering records, Silkwood was on the way to meet the New York Times, only for her car to mysteriously crash, and for the evidence to disappear. A breathtaking combination of drama and message, with a towering performance from Meryl Streep, who captures the spirit of a woman who’s death helped ensure the passage of important safety legislation; a heroine for the nuclear age.

MINING POEMS OR ODES

Dir: Callum Rice – 2015

Robert Fullerton is a force. Welder turned poet or poet turned welder? It doesn’t much matter in this evocation of his life and philosophy, and the forces that helped make him a mesmerising artist. “There she sits, majestic / He stands by engineering” begins his first poem, as he reminisces about being a 17-year old apprentice in Glasgow’s shipyards. Self-educated, and proud of listening to his mentor Archie (“a big voice”), who commanded him to read Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, which, like Das Kapital, tells how workers “gift” the profits of their labor to capitalists. A film about work and poetry.

THE 33

Dir: Patricia Riggen – 2015

The extraordinary story of the miners trapped for 69 days in Chile’s Copiapo gold-copper mine is of a place where mining began in 1889, but which now requires work 2300 feet underground. With cracks destroying the tunnels, the ‘rock’ that trapped the 33 was twice the size of the Empire State Building. Reaching a pre-built shelter, and discovering that there was no first aid kit, intercom, adequate water supply or escape route, they were given less

Dir: Céline Sciamma – 2014

A film to make you laugh, cry, and despair, the latest from Céline Sciamma (Tomboy) is one of the most powerful films in years on the subject of youth. Following Marieme, a young woman being denied educational opportunities by the French school system, she starts to embrace life when she meets a trio of fellow French African girls. Enjoying a tearaway lifestyle (their dancing to Rhianna’s Diamonds is one of the most joyous scenes ever committed to film), the tough choices of life on the margins still aren’t far away. But Marieme is always willing to take control of her own life, in this brilliant portrait of marginalised people, friendship and agency

Dir: Bob Byington – 2015

The title of this immersion in the anarchistic work life of Larry (Jason Schwartzman) is based on a Chinese fable about brothers rescuing a sibling. But no one can save Larry, especially from himself. He sashays through low-paying jobs, an un-reliant member of the underclass. Fired for petty thievery, he is faithful to his grandmother (Olympia Dukakis), who is disgusted by his slacker ways. In memorable scenes, Grandma disdainfully throws her walker aside, a cook scoops up a mass of noodles, and Jason exposes a workplace bully by pushing over a barrel of ill-gotten coins. Oh, and Jason has a fat French bulldog, who doesn’t like to move much either