This is the season of political documentaries with meditations on the degradations of late capitalism as well, of course, as Bush-bashing films, suddenly being seen as commercial fare.
Most of the recent entries in the field aim to take down myths and debunk conventional wisdom. Whether it’s Bush’s unnecessary war, FOX News’s hypocrisy and bias, the dramatic degree to which the corporate sector has impinged on civil society or the rate at which Big Macs will poison you, one hallmark of the new documentaries is their critical/reactive edge.
And, these times certainly do call for activist chroniclers keeping corrupt politicians, corporate flacks and lying diplomats accountable. But we need at least some hope too, a sense that another world really is possible. And what’s much more unusual–in journalism as well as film-making–are projects which focus on positive alternatives to the many negative trends afflicting modern society.
A chance at an optimistic perspective is one of the many reasons to see Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis’s new film, The Take. [Full disclosure: The film-makers are also personal friends and are affiliated with The Nation.] Written and produced by Nation columnist and best-selling author Klein, The Take is the film to watch after seeing Fahrenheit 911, Outfoxed and The Corporation–when you’re tired of being enraged and are ready to fight back.
Filmed in Argentina over the course of eight months, The Take documents the beginnings of a new social movement that took place under the radar of the world’s media. The recent economic crisis that shattered Argentina caused widespread dislocation and pushed more than half the population into extreme poverty. However, at two hundred factories, schools, supermarkets, and health clinics, something remarkable happened: rather than allowing their workplaces to be closed down, they turned these bankrupt businesses into productive, democratically-run cooperatives. The Take tells this story of working people forging genuine alternatives to the brutal economic realities of the Washington Consensus–a story whose implications are universal, and more important than ever.
Up until yesterday, The Take had only played at film festivals, where it has been warmly received: In Buenos Aires, there was a memorable “workers’ premiere” projected onto the side of an occupied textile factory; at the other end of the cultural spectrum, The Take was part of the official selection of the Venice Film Festival, where the working class heroes of the film had to compete with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman for attention (they held their own!)
Yesterday, the doc opened to a full-house at Film Forum in New York City in its first public release in theaters in the US. It’ll be playing there until at least October 5, after which it’ll get rolled out across the country. Bookings in Seattle and San Francisco and set and the films’s distributor is working on making sure audiences coast to coast are able to watch this historical tale of industrial workers changing their own fates.
The reviews could hardly be more positive. The New York Times called it “a stirring, idealistic documentary.” In New York Newsday, Gene Seymour wrote that “If Michael Moore could calm down just a little and maintain a watchful distance, The Take suggests the kind of film he’d make!” The New Yorker calls the workers in The Take “admirable, displaying a melancholy eloquence and a genuine revolutionary spirit.” Even Rupert Murdoch’s rabidly rightwing New York Post praises the doc’s achievement in “personalizing the globalization debate.”
You can also get a good sense of what the film is about by clicking here to listen to a conversation between Klein, Lewis and Brian Lehrer from this past Tuesday’s episode of WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show.
So, if you’re in New York City, click here to buy tickets to a Film Forum showing. If you’re not in the New York area, ask your local theater to contact The Take’s distributor, First Run/Icarus Films, and bring the doc to your town, and click here to watch a trailer no matter where you live.