Film Preview: Rochester Labor Film Series | Movie previews

It seems that not a day goes by that there is no article in the news focusing on workers’ rights around the world. From Amazon making headlines every two weeks due to the exploitation of their warehouse workers, the anti-union rhetoric of our current national administration, the increasing use of automation and robotics to take in charge of manual labor and the very recent United Auto Workers strike against General With engines happening across the country and right here in Rochester, workforce issues are woven into the fabric of our lives daily.

It’s no wonder, then, that the Rochester Labor Film Series has been a lasting success. Celebrating its 30th anniversary (making it one of the first of its kind in the country and the oldest feature film festival in Rochester), the series features work-themed stories that focus on issues and interests of the working class. And its screenings tend to be crowded.

When it comes to labor issues, surface issues may have changed as technology altered methods of production, distribution and transportation, not to mention increased recognition of individual workers’ rights. But many of the underlying concerns workers face have remained – from the conditions and exploitation of workers to the fight for fair wages.

The work film series was created by Jon Garlock, chairman of the Labor Council’s education committee, who has been co-curator and coordinator of the series since its inception in 1989. He is now joined by Vincent Saravallo, professor Associate of Sociology and Anthropology at RIT, and Jared Case, Curator of Film Exhibitions at the Eastman Museum.

“The good thing about our group is that you have someone who has experience with organized work and someone who has experience in filmmaking, and I come from a academia, ”says Saravallo. “So when we choose films, we know what’s going to work, and we can talk about its cinematic aspects and its organized work aspects, and the topics that I would like to pass on to my students.”

The longevity of the series has allowed it to focus on contemporary workplace issues while reflecting on how those issues may resurface decades later. Case attributes the series’ sustainability to its focus on community and collaboration. “This is a partnership between the Labor Council and the Eastman Museum,” he says. “We both have resources that we bring to this collaboration: us with the location and the ability to access the material and have a place to show it, and the Labor Council with its access to an audience to which these films are specifically intended, as well as expertise in labor matters.

Starting this year on Friday, October 11 (a later-than-normal start due to renovations at the Eastman Museum), the Labor series kicks off with a screening of Bill Duke’s 1984 drama “The Killing Floor”. Telling the true story of the efforts to organize an interracial union of Chicago packaging factory workers during and after World War I, it was the film that inspired the creation of the Rochester Labor Film Series.

All films are screened at the Dryden Theater at the George Eastman Museum (900 East Avenue), which will host weekly screenings until December 13. Organizers often invite speakers to come and talk about the film, with an introduction or panel discussion afterwards to discuss the issue and complement each image with other perspectives on the issues it raises.

On Saturday, October 26, after the premiere of “At War” – a French drama about the closure of an auto factory despite wage concessions from workers – local UAW leader Dan Maloney will discuss the photo in context of the strike by his union. at GM. Combining live music and classical cinema, the Alloy Orchestra will accompany the screening of the 1929 film “Man with a Movie Camera” on Friday, November 1st.

The series has a mission to show films that educate and entertain, featuring films from countries around the world in addition to the United States, which can range from documentaries to sci-fi and comedy. Many of her most popular picks over the years relate to other social concerns, be it immigration, women’s rights, or LGBTQ issues. Garlock emphasizes the diversity of subjects and cinematographic approaches as the source of the strength of the program. And it wasn’t just the public that took note: in honor of its series ’25th anniversary, the New York State Legislature passed a resolution honoring the Rochester Labor Film Series’ contributions to the landscape. culture of the city.

Each of us is a worker in one way or another, and the issues raised in these films affect us all, in ways that we can achieve, and others not. Which means there is no fear of the well running dry for filmmakers looking for new angles on these topics.

“We all do a job, out of passion or as a position to improve our lives, either because of what we do directly or because of the benefits we get from it,” says Case. “There is a global recognition that work is not just something you do, but something important to everyone’s existence. Work is life.”

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