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Solidarity cinema

Labour films feast in London and Liverpool
Hajera Blagg, Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

The 4th annual London Labour Film Festival kicks off today (September 22) at the Art House Cinema in Crouch End and will feature a range of films that the festival’s organisers bill as an “intimate celebration of working class life on the big screen.”


The three-day festival ending on Saturday (September 24) will open with the 1983 classic Silkwood, starring Meryl Streep in one of her standout performances. The film tells the story of Karen Silkwood, the union activist who died in unexplained circumstances as she prepared to expose health and safety problems in the nuclear power industry where she worked.


American film director Michael Moore’s latest film, Where to Invade Next, explores progressive policies in different countries and will also be shown tonight with a post-screen Q&A with award-winning journalist Owen Jones, MP Catherine West & MEP Lucy Anderson.


Other films on the line-up include the UK premiere of 7 Chinese Brothers, a comedy starring Jason Schwartzman which tells the story of a low-paid worker and his triumphs and travails; The 33, a harrowing dramatisation of the true story of Chilean miners trapped in a mine in 2010; and The Judgement, a Bulgarian-language film about Syrian refugee smugglers, among other films.


The London Labour Film Festival is the brainchild of Anna Burton, who was first inspired after reading the book Working Stiffs, Union Maids, Reds, and Riffraff, a guide to hundreds of films about workers and trade unionists.


“I tried looking for a lot of those films online but I couldn’t find many of them,” she said. “That’s when I realised that there might be other people looking for these sorts of films, too, without having any luck.”


After attending labour film festivals in Washington D.C. and elsewhere, Burton resolved to bring the idea to British shores.


The festival has had tremendous success over the years and for the first year there will also be a North West Labour Film Festival in Liverpool in two weeks’ time, starting on October 6.


Sell out showings

“The festival has done so well in London over the years that most of the films often sell out,” Burton explained. “I was approached both by people from Unite and Unison asking why there wasn’t a festival in the North West. So this year, we’ve organised one and hope to have more festivals in other cities in the future and perhaps one in south London too.”


Burton says the festival is a great way to reach out to a wider audience who might not be overtly political.


“Silkwood is a great way of, for example, showing a wider audience what a health and safety rep actually does and how incredibly important their role is,” she said.


“The films in the festival reflect the ongoing struggle for dignity in the workplace in a way that all people, no matter who you are or where you come from, can understand,” she explained. “These films entertain, they shock, they may make you angry or sad but in the end they all enlighten us in some way.


“They humanise political and social struggle and inspire us to participate in that struggle. I like to call it solidarity cinema.”


Unite Community co-ordinator for London and Eastern David Condliffe agreed and urged Unite members to attend over the next few days.


“I would encourage all Unite members – and indeed all trade union members – who are in the area to attend the London Labour Film Festival,” he said. “The inspirational line-up of films can help trade unionists understand the connections between fighting for a better workplace and the interlinked need for community and community action.”


Burton urges people who are interested to buy tickets soon, as seating is limited and shows often sell out.


For tickets and more information visit the London Labour Film Festival website here.


The North West Film Festival website can be found here.



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