Sunday, January 07, 2018


Machines. Please click to enlarge the images.

Machines / Machines
IN/DE/FI © 2016 Jann Pictures / Pallas Film / IV Films Ltd. Year of release: 2017. P: Rahul Jain, Thanassis Karathanos, Iikka Vehkalahti.
    D+SC: Rahul Jain. Cin: Rodrigo Trejo Villanueva – 16:9 HD. Digital colorist: Gregor Pfüller. Sound design: Susmit "Bob" Nath. Re-recording mixer: Adrian Baumeister. Sound mix: Dolby Atmos & 5.1. ED: Yaël Bitton, Rahul Jain.
    A documentary film. Language: Hindi. Loc: Gujarat (India).
    IDFA Competition: 17.11.2016.
    Finnish premiere in Helsinki, Kuopio, Oulu, Tampere, and Turku: 24.2.2017, distributor: Pirkanmaan Elokuvakeskus, 2K DCP with Finnish [and probably Swedish] subtitles – MEKU K7 – 69 min
    Screener link viewed at home, with Finnish subtitles, 7 Jan 2018

Official synopsis (translated from the Filmikamari site): "A visually strong movie about a huge textile factory in Gujarat, India. In the darkness of the labyrinth of the factory, among the dirt and the chemicals the workers are in dire need of sleep. The incessantly pounding machines churn beautiful textiles for the manufacturers of brand clothes. The circumstances are a reminder of a past without trade unions, ethical conditions of work or limitations of working hours."

Official synopsis (from the official website): "Moving through the corridors and bowels of an enormous and disorientating structure, the camera takes the viewer on a descent down to a dehumanized place of physical labor and intense hardship. This gigantic textile factory in Gujarat, India might just as well be the decorum for a 21st century Dante’s Inferno. In his mind-provoking yet intimate portrayal, director Rahul Jain observes the life of the workers, the suffering and the environment they can hardly escape from. With strong visual language, memorable images and carefully selected interviews of the workers themselves, Jain tells a story of inequality, oppression and the huge divide between rich, poor and the perspectives of both."

Director Rahul Jain:

As a five year-old boy I used to roam around in my grandfather’s now-defunct textile mill in Surat, in India’s Gujarat state. It was easy to get lost in the labyrinthine corridors. I was overwhelmed by the machines as a three-feet tall kindergartener. It was this sensation of being minuscule in front of the gigantic processing machines that took me back to a similar factory twenty years later – this time with a camera. I remember in fragments getting lost in the long aisles of printing machines, enjoying the smell of coal in the factory’s boiler rooms maybe because it was forbidden for me to be there in the first place."

"A child’s perspective is motivated by height, but as an adult the depth perception takes over. Seeing the world on an eye-to-eye level basis helped me sort my inclinations well. We forget this in our everyday existential structures because these things are hidden from our immediate field of vision, and I wish to elucidate through the camera this simple eye-to-eye perspective we sometimes choose to not acknowledge. It’s easy to look away from things we that make us uncomfortable so I set out to use cinema as a curatorial device to confront some of these things with a temporal patience."

"Venturing into many factories I have gotten a sense of my class, my identity among the 1.3 billion Indians I share my nationality with. A good fraction of the laborers don’t reveal their stories to me, probably due my association with the owners. But a majority of them are able to open up past our immediate and social differences, revealing the circumstances that lead them here. Young teenagers who joined these factory when I was an infant are now middle-aged adults. Some of them seem to remember me by my first name. I have travelled the world back and forth many times over, as these workers have toiled away their complete existences in these factories of exclusion and alienation."

"Food, housing and fabric are the material necessities of existence. A factory functions within these interests built from a variety of human elements. There is one boss relative to thousands of workers. A lack of unionized labor in a densely populated, quickly accelerating economy leaves room for a lot to be left unseen, deliberate overlooking of a multitude of human beings for the interests of a few. It is not just one factory, it’s a civilizational structure. The systems that allow this to happen are the  ones that needs collective acknowledgement.
” (Rahul Jain, the official website)

AA: Last year, 39 Finnish films had a theatrical premiere according to the statistics of the Finnish Film Foundation (and that is not a complete list: some of the most remarkable, including Kiehumispiste / Boiling Point and Perkele II, are missing). Many of the best included in the list appeared in the cinema for only a brief span. After the premiere week they were moved to difficult and irregular slots.

Machines is one of those most important films that did not get much exposure in the cinemas. It is a documentary film about labour conditions in a huge sweatshop in India. The work shift is 12 hours, and the pay for one shift is 3 USD. Some workers come from far away, and they may work 36 or 48 hours with hardly any rest. The train ride to the factory is 36 hours, and the trains are so full that there is no room to sit. Neither is there any food served on the train. There is a drought that forces families of farmers to send their people to the sweatshops. The workers perhaps do not earn any savings but at least they can feed themselves. Child labour is a norm.

There are no trade unions, and if someone starts to organize, there is a likelihood that the organizer will be murdered on a contract by the factory leaders. There are several interviews with the workers, including ones in favour of organizing. Also factory leaders are interviewed. One of them is skeptical: the more you pay to the workers the less motivated they are to work. The human presence is memorable in this movie about machines.

Rahul Jain's film is visually dynamic and engaging. Long passages evolve in purely visual terms. A roaming camera investigates the circumstances in the big factory with forward and backward tracking shots in a Bazinian approach. This is not a montage film. We see see the beautiful fabrics, the sweat and the steam, and the exhausted bodies of the workers of all ages. The sequences of colour printing are aesthetically engaging, but the film is not about aestheticizing poverty and exploitation.

In the finale a drone shot gives us a general view of Gujarat covered by fog, smoke, dust, and pollution. We land in the middle of a gathering of concerned farmers on the street. They have been interviewed before. Why is nobody doing anything? Machines is a sober film about intolerable conditions of work. The viewer is left with the challenge: something must be done to change this.

The visual quality is good, and the sound design is effective.

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