United in Struggle
Сurators: Masha Ravlyk, Tonya (Ton) Melnyk, Filma collective
Worked on text: Masha Ravlyk, Tonya (Ton) Melnyk, Filma collective, Sashko Podolyak
Illustration: Maryna Demkovych
This year’s festival program brings together 5 films from Germany, Poland, China, Indonesia and Argentina. These stories are very different, but they all focus on global issues of labour rights, the protection of these rights, and means of solidarity and building networks of resistance. They excite, horrify, inspire and evoke a wish for solidarity with the authors and protagonists, and often resemble the audience's own experience.
Irene in A Bonus for Irene works at a domestic appliance factory, but doesn't own a washing machine herself. She is unable to keep silent about gender inequality at work, the terrible conditions and low wages, and the sexism and misogyny in the German society of the 60s and 70s. She protests because she has no other choice.
The protagonists of The Women's Strike Continues, childcare workers in Poznan, have long been fighting at length and with great persistence for higher wages and the expansion of nursery provision, and against the privatisation of kindergartens and the extension of working hours. Eventually, they gain the support of anarchist and anarcho-feminist grassroots organisations. They take part in the Black Protest against the abortion ban in Poland, which was in many ways driven by such grassroots groups.
Complicit is a story about the fight against the use of harmful substances in the manufacture of Samsung and Apple smartphones in China. The struggle begins with one worker, but gradually the circle of activists expands to include people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. This film is inspiring and tragic at the same time. Some of the personal stories include suicide and industrial injuries, and we felt it necessary to warn audiences of this.
Meanwhile, The Globalisation Tapes is suffused with irony and defiant optimism in spite of grim realities. A day's hard labour in the oil palm plantations of Sumatra pays as little as $1.14, and the film presents this humorously. The use of dangerous chemicals on the plantation becomes the subject of a comedy sketch. But this unexpected approach is not a cause for outrage, because the plantation workers made this film themselves, shooting for 3 hours after every workday.
In Rio Turbio, the author uses fragments of correspondence, photos and videos from family archives, recent footage, personal narratives, and official statements to depict the history of one particular mining town in Argentina. It is important to watch this film to the end to understand the condition of the film's protagonists in its entirety. It covers problems in finding work, misogyny and stereotypes about women living in a mining monotown, the normalisation of workplace mortality, and police violence during workers' protests. This film occupies an extremely important place in the program. It demonstrates clearly how the systems of capitalist and patriarchal oppression interlock, and how the protagonists stand against them.
The wide geographical scope of the program is indicative of labour rights violations as a worldwide issue, and Ukraine is no exception. Despite the full-scale invasion, laws that significantly expand employers' ability to exploit workers and save resources at their expense are still being passed. But workers in various sectors continue to defend their rights. Of course, it's distressing that teachers and doctors have to fight for the basics. But eventually they win a ban on the downgrading of workers without their consent, and they seek flexible hours or paid leave to care for children and elderly relatives. At the same time, the unemployment rate in Ukraine is rising, and the close connection between gender issues and labour rights needs to be taken into consideration. In the face of war, and sometimes forced displacement, reproductive care and maintenance work falls even more heavily on women or people with female socialisation backgrounds. Also, finding employment is often difficult due to identity, the state of a person’s mental health, their appearance, age, lifestyle, or other factors. As Ukraine seeks to join the European Union, it remains on a neoliberal path in the field of labour law. We have a severe lack of independent trade unions and activists helping to protect workers' rights.
All these problems need to be raised. And we have to be heard because, in different ways, we are all connected. That’s why the very different experiences of the protagonists from the five countries seem so familiar to us. This brings to mind an idea expressed in The Globalisation Tapes: that we need global solidarity of workers in all sectors to fight back against the capitalists.