Wednesday, 11/18/2020

Is work all there is?

Five films deal with aspects of the world of work

Is work all there is?

Some jobs are life-threateningly dangerous!

Nothing sets the pace of our everyday routine and defines our lives to the same extent as the work we do. Our program of films offers a varied perspective on this. Some people find fulfillment in their work and consider it an extension of their personality. Others don’t have a job, or are in one that’s simply a form of exploitation and a necessary evil that demands escape.

The latter view is shared by Ivan, a plant engineer, in LIVING IT UP. His resourcefulness and willingness to make sacrifices enable him to call in sick and escape the drudgery in the dreary factory. Two of his co-workers do the same. And so they head off to the nearest bar to celebrate their short-lived freedom with plenty of alcohol.

The protagonists of the documentary film SILVER FIREFLY can’t afford to call in sick, because they’re not in paid work. Nor do they have a home in the conventional sense. On the banks of the Río de La Plata, near the port of Buenos Aires, a group of people live in improvised wooden huts, trying to earn a little money as fishermen. They are outcasts without a place in society or the social welfare system. Adrian, for example, lost everything in the 2001 economic crisis in Argentina and has been living on the riverbank for 15 years. Despite the adverse circumstances, he and the others are optimistic about the future and have high hopes for the Argentinian election in 2019.

Meanwhile, three workers in STONE BREAKERS face an uncertain future. They don’t know how much longer they’ll be able to exploit the rock in the quarry. They’re reaching the end of the rock formation and with it the end of their work. This end will mean an end to exploitation: the exploitation of the Earth, as well of the bodies that have been maltreated for decades. In calm imagery, this documentary observes the final days spent alternating between the roaring of machines and contemplative silence as the three men hoist heavy blocks of stone, silently read the newspaper while gathered around a table, stare at their cell phones, and thoughtfully peel an orange.



The experimental film ALL MOVEMENTS SHOULD KILL THE WIND deals with stonework in a completely different way. The workers are mere shadowy apparitions covered in gray dust amid a bunch of statues and boulders. The focus is not on the toiling laborer, but on the material that is being worked. The buzzing of the stone saw, the whirring movements of the angle grinder, and the clacking of broken stones all contribute to an intense acoustic backdrop, while the wind constantly carries away the rising dust.

The work performed by Martin Lacey, Jr., on the other hand, is no tedious drudgery; it’s a calling. Lacey has been an animal trainer at Circus Krone since 2001. More precisely, he is an animal teacher. At least that’s how he describes himself in the documentary THE LION-TEACHER, which you’ll find in the HFF Special. Lacey says his aim is to build the character of his feline predators. Thus he’s no longer a worker who can be replaced at any time. Rather, his personality has become an essential brand for Circus Krone and a component of his work — a privileged form of work that the protagonists in the other films can only dream of.