Glimpses of Working Title Film Festival 3

Taste of Cement
Taste of Cement

The third edition of Working Title Film Festival takes place in 2018, a year of remarkable anniversaries. It is one that is particularly dear to our hearts: ten years since the onset of the economic crisis. It has been a decade that has brought economic and social changes, as well as changes related to technologies and the language used.

This is the core idea around which the “2008- 2018. Representations of Work in the Audiovisual Production during a Decade of Crisis” conference revolves, featuring conversations between academics and professionals such as Enrico Terrone, Paolo Chirumbolo, Chiara Checcaglini, Elena Testa, Tiziano Toracca, and Angela Condello.

We intend to focus on how fiction, documentary films, tv series, and web series have been contaminated by an increasingly tough and complex social reality, which couldn’t (and can’t) be ignored, not even in the audiovisual entertainment format. This framework and the technological progress achieved have generated increasingly hybrid new languages and audiovisual forms, as well as new forms of using archive materials.

The festival has always engaged in narrating work and labour in all its semantic varieties, in a contemporary context that is characterised by a complex and fragmented nature, in a constant local/global confrontation. The selected films contribute to tracing a sort of map of the labour world and therefore of the contemporary world, by means of differing languages, styles and points of view.

The fresh news for this year is the creation of a new section in the festival competition, dedicated to experimental materials and video-arts, Extraworks, alongside the competition for feature-films / medium-length films and short-films.

The selection offers a range of rather topical themes, such as emigrations/immigrations, with stories characterised by exploitation and xenophobia, but also by the hope for a better life.

For the protagonists of Non ho l’età, Italians who emigrated to Switzerland in the 60s, the songs of young singer Gigliola Cinquetti represented a way to dream about a better life, and they found a confidante in her, even in the face of a hostile social context. The musical element, with its cathartic value, also characterises The Harvest, a hybrid between the language of documentary films and musicals, staging choreographies where Sikh, exploited day labourers of the Agro Pontino area transform into Punjabi dancers.

The protagonists of Taste of Cement are Syrian construction workers who work in Beirut, Lebanon, but are excluded from the social life of the very city they are (re)building: during the day they “live” in the space up above, on the cranes, and at night they are segregated underground. The taste of cement is the taste of the houses being built, but also of the ones that were destroyed and turned into ruins by the shelling, the taste of cement is the continuous noise of the construction site, constantly reminding them of the noise of war, so deafening that it becomes a muffled silence.

Taste of Cement
Taste of Cement

Massimino is the name of a young boy who, in the 70s, was the protagonist of a movie by Ettore Scola, who had promoted him as a symbol of the possible emancipation of the workers from southern Italy who had emigrated to Turin. But there is a huge gap between the footage material and the images shot more recently by the director, Di Donni, a gap that is as big as the expectations of that child and the life of the man he has become.

Talien is an emigration story that is full of successful work experiences. In the late 70s Abdelouahab (Aldo) moved to Italy and started working as a street vendor. Today, after spending more than half of his life in Italy, where his family lives, he has decided to go back to Morocco. The film is about this journey in reverse through Europe and the exchange/clash with his son Elia, a second-generation Italian boy who faces a working environment that is much different from the one his father experienced 40 years earlier.

A bright future in Germany is what the Bosnian aspiring theatre actress Ljilja dreams of. All her life, she has been dreaming of escaping the destiny to which she seems to be bound as a factory worker in her homeland (Kineski Zid / Great Wall of China). In Stakleni Horizont / The Glass Horizon dreams turn into waking nightmares for a slaughterhouse worker, a Gastarbeiter from Eastern Europe, forced by his foreman to sleep in the forest.

Many of these films portray the technological and social changes that have occurred in the last few years, as well as the ensuing uncertainty. In Made in Roubaix the owner of a textile company wanders through working machines, but now pointlessly, like a spectre. In Manifesto, quoting the famous Marx’s manifesto, of which this year marks the 170th anniversary, the spectres haunting a European capital, Berlin, are not those of communism, but of the tourists who got lost in a whirl of digital images.

The very protagonist of 8:30, a door-to-door seller, winds up living in a loop, in a dystopian world that looks more and more like Google Maps. The animation short-film Sand is set in a diegetic universe whose iconography comes directly from the 60s; an element will leak in its sound and orderly routine, shaking up its linearity.

Repetition is the fulcrum of Mitarbeiter des Monats / Employee of the Month, where a young woman and a young man carry out rather useless mechanical tasks in a chewing-gum factory, exchanging their power roles from time to time. Forced, aimless labour is also a key theme in Stakhanov. Hope lies in the escape from work in Out of the box, where a young call-centre operator (re)lives a monotonous life, marked by the sexist sadism of her boss, by the neurosis of clients and by the invasiveness of noisy neighbours. The challenge of inventing a new job that can match one’s passion is the common thread of the four protagonists of Y, a letter that indicates the generation of those who were born in the twilight of the twentieth century. Once any ambition for a steady job is lost, they will become enthusiastic world builders, and they will tell about themselves through the favourite means of their years: a smartphone.

How do human relationships change behind the shop windows of global commerce? The protagonist of Fifo, a young man on his first job in a supermarket, finds it out at his own expense when the rules of the market clash with the rules of human dignity. On the other hand, the humanity that inhabits Commodity City, a sort of metropolis/beehive, where everything is for sale, seems to be quite at ease in the world of commodities. In the video performance Curtain Calling the cultural workers seek to give a new sense to a city which used to live in a symbiosis with a factory that is now being decommissioned.

Taste of Cement
Taste of Cement

The effects of an increasingly widespread gentrification reflect on the lives of the protagonists of Koffie plagiato / Coffee plagiato and Oosteroever / East Shore. The elderly owner of an antique shop, the protagonist of the first film, had to add a new line of business to the activity that has been passed down in his family from generation to generation: selling coffee and cappuccino in order to fight the competition of the fashionable cafés that have replaced the older shops. Oosteroever is a quarter in Oostende where the fishermen live, a quarter that is threatened by a property speculation that will bring profound town-planning and social changes. This fate has already been experienced by the protagonists of Latent, a community of Innu fishermen, living on the frigid coasts of Quebec, a story that is narrated with lyrical visual and auditory suggestions.

Saule Marceau and Il monte delle formiche share a narrative that blends archive materials and found footage, poetic texts and an in-depth analysis on the world of animals and on the relationship human beings have with them: in the former, through the job of breeder that the young protagonist has chosen (against the current), in the latter with the religious contemplation of an animal that symbolises hard work, the ant. Bats, animals surrounded by a mysterious aura, reveal their vulnerability when they are medicated by the vets that are the (co-)protagonists of Esseri.

Carne e polvere is the symphony of an ancestral, intimate relationship: the one between a farmer and a harsh, but fertile land.

A fiction film, Unterdruck / Under Pressure, and a documentary film, Dr. Fatma, in two quite different countries, from a cultural and social point of view, Austria and Algeria: two gynaecologists live their job as a daily challenge through which they can measure their convictions against social biases, bringing their own private life into play.

Awasarn Sound Man / Death of the Sound Man (self)ironises on one of the most important and at the same time least acknowledged jobs in the film industry, the one of audio-engineer and foley artist; this happens within a context, like the one in Thailand, where persistent budget issues force people to come up with creative solutions, with outcomes that are at times quite funny. Maneggiare con cura / Handle with Care will fascinate us with the swarming work of restorers, of the former users and curators of the National Museum of Science and Technology in Milan, collaborating with philological accuracy to breathe new life into a particle accelerator from 70 years ago. The creative process itself requires constant collaboration, and a new approach: in a renowned advertisement company from Barcelona, the staff is composed of artists and graphics who are affected by Down syndrome and autism: they are the protagonists of Design-ability, and they made this company successful precisely thanks to their out-of-the-box creativity.

And then comes the time to retire, i.e. the job of keeping one’s body fit and functional. The elderly protagonists of Home Exercises perform it as choreography. There is still time for Un ultimo giro (One last ride): an experimental video transforming the photographic archive materials of an amusement ride company into a synesthetic experience.

The heterogeneity of languages, styles, and themes that emerges from the selection of WTFF3 shall spark a non-crystallised, non-stereotyped debate on work, as well as offer a multi-faceted iconography.

Marina Resta
artistic director of Working Title Film Festival

English Translation by Giulia Galvan