Occupy, Resist, Produce

in 6th Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema

by Cristina Nord

Heavy rain is about to start as around 300 people are gathering at the junction of Avenida Jujuy and México. The crowd is made up of workers of the nearby Brukman factory, of neighbours, students and political activists. It is seven pm, a delegation from the Zanon ceramic factory in Southern Argentina is marching in, beating their drums ear-deafeningly. They are closing down the road in order to prevent the heavy traffic of Buenos Aires from interrupting the open air screening of Naomi Klein’s and Avi Lewis’s documentary “The Take”. “The Take” is a film about a specific Argentinian form of political resistance: In order to battle unemployment and the pauperization of the working class, factories were occupied after they had been closed. The workers recovered the lost jobs by starting to run the factories on their own. The slogan of this movement is “ocupar, resistir, producir” (“occupy, resist, produce”), and the crowd at Jujuy and Mexico does not get tired of shouting it.

Lewis and Klein – she is the author of the anti-globalization manifesto “No Logo” – consider themselves as “activist journalists”. The two Canadians came to Buenos Aires in december 2001, at the climax of an economic crisis that had been going on for quite a few years but which gained international visibility only after massive demonstrations and a profound crisis of the political class. Since then, Klein and Lewis have been doing research on the social movements that emerged in the shaken country. In the self-organized workers at Brukman, Zanon and other places, they found a radical political protagonist which their own country as well as Europe and the US are lacking. Their documentary “The Take” was invited to this year’s edition of the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema (BAFICI). After one screening at a normal theatre, an open air screening on the scene of action certainly seems an appropiate thing to do.

This implies a certain degree of idealization inherent to every form of internationalism. “The Take” does not careabout reaching a visual concept beyond urgency; it does not care about developping a balanced perspective; it makes fun of the former owners; it does not tell us anything about the discrepancies between different left wing groups, some more radical than others; and it does not inform about the workers who did not engage in the struggle and feel cheated by now. The film is clearly a piece of activism, and it seems rather unaware of the visual and intellectual limitations this implies.

On the other hand, the screening at the Brukman factory is turning quite impressivly into a real happening. The first time Carlos Menem – former president and mainly responsible for the exaggerated and misguided neoliberal politics of the nineties – appears on the screen, people yell at him without ceasing; when the Brukman workers appear, the applause does not come to an ending, and inspite of the rain, people stay attentive. Lewis, whose Spanish is fluent, is standing next to the screen, repeating the slogans the protagonists of his film shout, jumping up and down with joy, even though he is soaking wet. Whereas Naomi Klein hides herself under the hood of her coat. Anyway, one thing is for sure: the workers did not come to worship anti-globalization celebreties, but to celebrate themselves.