Last week we invited our members to one of the BFI’s beautiful screening rooms for the next in our film-focused event series: Talking Pictures series. Twice a year, we screen film old and new, and facilitate discussion around it. Our May session focused on how industry relations have been represented in British filmmaking through the ages. As we are living through a period of regular strike and industrial action, as rail workers, teachers, medical staff and more fight for fairer pay and better working conditions, we hoped this would be a pertinent topic for our audience.
We screened film from the BFI archives, as well as contemporary film documenting how industry relations, union action and strikes have been depicted in Britain and by British filmmakers. The screened films were as follows:
The Film That Never Was (1957)
TUC Ford Sewing Machinists – A Women’s Worth (2006)
United Voices (2020)
The Film That Never Was features Gordon Jackson playing a filmmaker trying to make an industrial relations film. But he can’t get management and unions to even agree on a script to it! The film was commissioned by the COI and made by World Wide Pictures, and was screened on a 35mm print. It investigates how conversation can be facilitated in the workplace, and disrupts the idea of a ‘typical worker’.
TUC Ford Sewing Machinists – A Women’s Worth is compiled of interviews done with the sewing machinists and their supporters who campaigned for equal pay, as well as archive footage from the time. It was a ground breaking dispute which stopped Ford car production in its tracks, and led to the equal pay act.
STRIKE! was created by Pukka Films. They were commissioned by one of their clients to create a drama-format training film. They had recognised that they were likely to be affected by industrial action and wanted to produce something that could be used to train their managers.
United Voices was a ground breaking Guardian documentary directed by Hazel Falck covering the St. Mary’s campaign that saw UVW members go on the longest strike in NHS history.
Following the screening of the selected films, we heard from Patrick Russell (BFI) and Jo Gewirtz (Pukka Films) in conversation with our Executive Director Claire Fennelow. They discussed the current strikes, humour in filmmaking and film as a stimulus for debate.
We then piled into a local pub and chatted film, holidays and writing over a drink!
You can watch A Women’s Worth below:
You can watch STRIKE below:
You can watch United Voices below:
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) and filmmaker Tim Langford have kindly shared a few further resources and feature film recommendations for those interested in watching further film on the subject:
Pride (2014) is a feature film about a group of LGBTQ+ activists who support the miners strike: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3169706/
Made in Dagenham (2010) is a feature film about the Ford sewing machinists strike: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1371155/
Solidarity (2019) is about the blacklisting of construction workers and the police/employer conspiracy: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10982160/?ref_=fn_al_tt_3
Nae Pasaran (2019) is about Scottish factory workers who refuse to carry out repairs for engines for planes destined for export to Pinochet regime in Chile: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4489624/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Ken Loach’s work including Bread and Roses (2000) which follows two Latina sisters working as cleaners in a downtown office building, and fighting for the right to unionize: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0212826/
The surreal Sorry to Bother You (2018). In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success, propelling him into a universe of greed: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5688932/
In a popular suburb of Dakar, workers on the construction site of a futuristic tower, without pay for months, decide to leave the country by the ocean for a better future Atlantics (2019): https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10199586/plotsummary/?ref_=tt_ov_pl