France, Germany / 2017/143 min
Ben Russell’s third feature is an apparent simplicity that is only matched by its power of evocation. Divided into two distinct parts (and an epilogue), this conceptual ethnographic film takes us to the heart of two sites of intense manual work poles apart from each other. The first is a Serbian underground copper mine. The second is an open-pit gold mine in Suriname. Sublimely shot in super 16mm, in black and white and color, Good Luck is openly a study of contrasts that encourages us to reflect on the differences – and the similarities – between the anxious atmosphere of the state mine and the sinking sun of the semi-legal career. Constantly emphasizing the individuality and mutual aid of the workers, Good Luck is also, and above all, a great gesture of humanist solidarity. (BD)
Ben Russell’s third feature is as powerful as it is apparently simple. Presented in two distinct parts plus an epilogue, this conceptual ethnographic film transports us to two intense and very different manual labor sites. The first is an underground copper mine in Serbia, the second year open-pit gold mine in Suriname. Beautifully shot in 16mm, in both color and black and white, Good Luck is a study in contrasts that encourages us to think about the differences and similarities between the tense atmosphere of the state-run mine and the brutal sun beating down on the semi- legal quarry. Always highlighting the workers’ individuality and solidarity, Good Luck is also a work of deep humanist solidarity.
(2013, 83mins, dir. Shaina Anand & Ashok Sukumaran)
A boat has many powers: to gather a society in its making, to distribute goods, to carry people and ideas across places that seem more different than ever before. This auto-ethnographic travelogue was produced through four years of dialogue, friendship and exchange between the Mumbai-based studio CAMP and sailors from Kutch, Sindh, Baluchistan and Southern Iran, working in the wharfs of Sharjah and Dubai. Captured with cell phone cameras and set to a soundtrack of Bollywood, Pakistani and religious songs chosen by the sailors, the film sails from Gujarat to the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Aden to the Somali coast and back again, alongside cargoes ranging from medical equipment to live goats.
(2008, 17mins, dir. Yasmine Kabir)
A haunting wordless depiction of the ship-breaking yards of Chittagong, Bangladesh. “With her images, one feels the impossible weight of the ropes, as shoeless feet are submerged ankle deep in toxic petroleum; the palpable hunger driving bodies of skin and bone to repeat arduous physical feats that would make a strong man groan.” [Alisa Lebow]
They’re called the ship-breaking yards: the graveyards of ocean-going vessels near Chittagong in Bangladesh. In the foreground, fishermen wade through low water with nets in hand; in the background, we see the gigantic ships on their sides, waiting for the day they’ll be taken apart.
The Last Rites is a short, silent account in which director Yasmine Kabir is more in search of the poetry of the images than an all-encompassing record of the events. She juxtaposes the insignificance of the men against the towering sides of the ships. The fire of the welding machine is the only warmth in the dark backgrounds of cold steel. This is where the ships come to die. Not all at once with a bang, but slowly, only as fast as the men can dismantle them. After all, the ships aren’t taken apart with big cranes, but rather by the welders, piece by piece. One sheet of metal at a time, until nothing’s left, and then more ships arrive for dismantling. The Last Rites is Kabir’s third documentary at IDFA. After her first in 2000, My Migrant Soul, her second film was screened in 2003: A Certain Liberation, a heartbreaking story about a woman who walked the streets of the town of Kopilmoni like a crazy person after her family was murdered.
96 min/Broomfi eld/UK/2006
Broomfield’s fictional feature film, Ghosts (2006), is based on interviews and articles gathered by the journalist Hsai-Hung Pai during her investigation into the 2004 Morecambe Bay cockling tragedy. Twenty-three undocumented migrant workers from China, all unfamiliar with the geography, language and customs of the area, were drowned after being caught out by incoming tides on the extensive mud flats of Morcambe Bay. Their deaths are dramatised in Ghosts which, whilst focusing on a single doomed work crew, is the story of workers who, in desperate need to support their families in China, resort to illegal immigration to countries such as the UK where they became part of the significant number of foreign-born precariat under-class workers. Th e cockle gatherers are representative of a signifi cant class of modern slavery, being bound to criminal gang bosses by a debt servitude that leaves them unable to escape their dangerous jobs. Broomfield deftly dramatises the process in which a Chinese worker pays smugglers a significant sum of money, before taking terrible risks (such as being transported by container), in order to enter the British workforce, where they are subsequently crowded into tiny cottages and treated akin to slaves before being sent out to work in conditions and environments that are dangerous and unsupervised.
(London Labour Film festival 2017)
Directed By: Alicia Dwyerl
Runtime: 70 min
Stars: – – –
Synopsis: Exploring the intersection of commercialism and immigration in American culture, the documentary filmmakers follow their friend and fellow filmmaker Tom Xia on an intimate, humorous journey to get to know his neighbors