How to save the world by keeping your day job
It is a rare and indeed amazing achievement when art truly effects social change. Creating change is often in the heart of many artists but more often than not, their work is overlooked or misunderstood, and in some cases just fails to connect with the public. One previously rare moment where the social perspective was reshaped through art was with the release of Nettie Wilde’s film Fix. Released during the last civic election and like it or not, the film had a direct effect on the way that many people saw the issues. It articulated the failure of the previous NPA government to remotely address the issues of homelessness and drug addiction in this city and told a real human story of love and sacrifice between addict / activist Dean Wilson and Ann Livingston, a VANDU organiser. It showed us the people at the heart of the issues and chronicled the political developments and their consequences. It let us see.
It’s time to see again, because now comes a new documentary called The Take and it may do for the world what Fix did for this city.
The Take, a documentary by Avi Lewis (of CBC’s counter-spin fame) and Naomi Klein (No Logo) is about the people of Argentina after its economic collapse in 2001. Due to a failed free market strategy for rebuilding national industry through the systematic dismantling and privatisation of national assets like water and electricity, Argentina saw unemployment levels skyrocket and 50% of its people slip below the poverty line. Bankrupted factories lay abandoned and idle and the country was plunging deeper into debt. Running out of time and options, workers across Argentina decided to go back to work, themselves.
Shot on digital video, over the course of seven months, The Take follows a group of auto factory workers as they begin the struggle to re-occupy their plant, restart the machines and in turn restart the economic heart of a country. But this is not a political tool to invoke social change. The change has already come and now society must try to find a way to survive.
In a recent interview, director Avi Lewis suggests, “this movement is not preceding from ideology…the vast majority of workers are being politicised by their struggle. It’s an exciting thing to watch, because we think about how social change actually happens…and how we can achieve it in our own struggles and in our own communities.”
What The Take offers as a documentary is a chance to witness and experience a movement that operates as an inversion of the economic pyramid model we are used to. The point of the power structure here is at the bottom, which is a “challenge to everybody’s politics,” it’s a movement “which is pragmatic and not about a set of rules, even within how you struggle. But about achieving the end, about winning.”
The worker movement in Argentina is about the future, about creating options for yourself and for those around you. It is a struggle to be sure, not to overthrow the government but rather to become it. By reclaiming the means of production, the people of Argentina have turned the skeletons of capitalism into a workers paradise where “everyone has an equal stake in the company and people have a genuine and equal say in what decisions are made…what the Argentine workers are trying to build, is something to sustain them in the rubble of a failed economic system.”
The Take is an intimate film that allows us to get close to people who are living out loud, trying to reclaim their humility and humanity. It’s about people who want to provide for the ones they love and who want live in a better world than the one they inherited.
The Take opens Friday at Tinseltown, 88 W Pender.