Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Sundance ’17: Machines
know how many fingers and limbs have gotten caught in the gears of this Gujarat
textile factory, but it is doubtful they ever stopped the machinery. Shifts are
long and the pay is low, but the workers still travel miles to keep their jobs
there. Rahul Jain captures and contemplates their exhausting labor in Machines (trailer here), which screened
at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.
you want to see the behind-the-scenes “sausage-making” that goes on in the
Indian textile industry than this is the film for you. Safety precautions
appear minimal and sanitation is dubious. Yet, many of the workers (a number of
them dispossessed farmers) cling to their jobs and dignity, claiming they are
not exploited because they willingly work there. Still, others readily admit
they would be delighted if management reduced shifts from twelve to eight
hours, pointedly asking Jain if he has any ideas how to achieve such a goal.
Right, he’ll gave to get back to you on that one.
there is not much talking in Machines.
It is mostly just take-it-all-in observation. Granted, the net effect is pretty
much poverty porn, but the visuals are sharp and clearly very deliberately
framed by cinematographer Rodrigo Trejo Villaneuva. The environment is
overwhelmingly oppressive, much like Chaplin’s Modern Times except dingier, but the film itself looks crisp and
you are keeping score with Sundance documentaries, the plastic recycling plant
in Plastic China looks like a much
more pleasant work environment than the Gujarat factory, but Machines is the more stylish film.
Despite the challenges issued late in the film, Jain clearly built up a level
of comfort with his subjects. Reportedly, he lived amongst the factory workers
for months before he even started shooting, so if the documentary police still
consider him exploitative than probably nobody can make this film.
is an impressive downer that just corralled
Villaneuva the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Best
Cinematography at Sundance. It certainly puts a human face on all the obsessive
BRIC economic chatter. Recommended for admirers of films like Powaqqatsi, Machines will be the opening night selection of MoMA’s annual Doc Fortnight on February 16th, following its North American premiere at
this year’s Sundance.
Labels: Documentary, Sundance '17