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Category Archives: Communications

The Phantom of the Operator (2004)

A film by Caroline Martel

Canada, 2004, 66 minutes, Color/BW, DVD, French, Subtitled
Order No. W05869
This wry and delightful found-footage film reveals a little-known chapter in labor history: the story of female telephone operators’ central place in the development of global communications. With an eye for the quirky and humorous, Caroline Martel assembles a dazzling array of clips – more than one hundred remarkable, rarely seen industrial, advertising and scientific management films produced in North America between 1903 and 1989 by Bell and Western Electric – and transforms them into a dreamlike montage documentary.

As the first agents of globalization, this invisible army of women offered a way for companies to feminize and glamorize what was a highly stressful, underpaid and difficult job. Not merely “Voices with a Smile,” telephone operators were shooting stars in a universe of infinite progress, test pilots for new management systems, and the face of shrewd public relations campaigns. As the work of operators has been eclipsed by the advent of automated systems, this artful piece of labor history also offers an insightful comment on women’s work, industrialization and communications technology. Refreshing and hilarious, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERATOR provides a wry yet ethereal portrait of human society in the technocratic age.

available from Women Make Movies
 

Philips-Radio (1931) (aka The Symphonie Industrielle)

Director: Joris Ivens
36m

Country: Netherlands

An industrial film which shows the operations inside the Philips Radio plant: In a mêlée of activity, glassblowers make delicate glass bulbs. Machinery assists the bulb manufacture. A virtuoso glassblower begins a more complex tube used in radio broadcasting; it is then turned, fired, and sculpted. Conveyors carry partially completed units. Workers perform their various specific assembly-line tasks. Cases are manufactured and machined, wire harnesses are assembled, loudspeakers are produced. As radios near completion, they are run through a series of tests. Engineers and draughtsmen define future developments. In a closing stop-motion sequence, in a style reminiscent of Norman McLaren, a group of loudspeakers performs a playful dance. The film overall is a poetic depiction of an industrial process.Written by David Carless (IMDB)

 

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Nalini By Day, Nancy by Night (2005)

27m

Director: Sonali Gulati

Synopsis (Women Make Movies): In this insightful documentary, filmmaker Sonali Gulati explores complex issues of globalization, capitalism and identity through a witty and personal account of her journey into India’s call centers. Gulati, herself an Indian immigrant living in the US, explores the fascinating ramifications of outsourcing telephone service jobs to India—including how native telemarketers take on Western names and accents to take calls from the US, UK and Australia.

A fresh juxtaposition of animation, archival footage, live action shots and narrative work highlight the filmmaker’s presence and reveal the performative aspects of her subjects. With fascinating observations on how call centers affect the Indian culture and economy, NALINI BY DAY, NANCY BY NIGHT raises important questions about the complicated consequences of globalization.

Website: http://www.wmm.com/filmcatalog/pages/c682.shtml