A few days ago our team went to see the documentary film MACHINES, which observed the rhythm of life and work in a gigantic textile factory in the Indian state of Gujarat. And it sure made us think.
Debutant director Rahul Jain, born in Delhi himself, moves us through a hidden environment. Through the corridors and massive piles of fabric, between the barrels of toxic chemicals and the machines in motion showing the dehumanising labour conditions and the rough work. The metal jaws, printers and pressers go on and on, never stopping, spilling bright flowery fabrics out to the dark factory environment. The visual language is strong, unforgettable.
The real power in this documentary film was that there were no voiceovers, no commentary, no music, or anything added. With a few interview exceptions, there were just the rough sights and sounds, almost even the smells, of the factory. This is it. This is how it works.
The other machines at the factory are the workers. Many of them were no more than teenagers, and most of them working repetitively 12-hour shifts for pittance wages. Trapped in drudgery. There is no laws or regulation protecting these people like we do in the Western countries.nd as one worker notes: “When labourers do unite, their leader is usually killed.”
As one worker notes “when labourers do unite, their leader is usually killed.” This fact is devastating. Because it’s only a few decades back when we in Finland didn’t have the working conditions as we have now. But due to the active trade unions, the possibility to unite, to work together “against” the employer, we have been able to accomplish the working conditions we have today.
One of the most interesting moments of the film was when a man, an interviewee, challenges Rahul Jain by asking what are the director’s intentions of doing the film. He compares Jain to politicians who “just come here, look at our problems, and leave.” Nothing ever happens. Jain cuts the viewer back to the factory, but maybe the question was for us. We know the situation, what are we going to do?
Jain doesn’t point his finger to no one. And we shouldn’t, what’s the point in blaming when we can cooperate? Cooperation is the core idea of Fashion Revolution. It’s a global movement calling for greater transparency, sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry. It is about uniting the fashion industry and changing the way clothes are sourced, produced and purchased.
After Machines, I just can’t help thinking what a difference would even 50 cents more in the price of a garment make. Would those men get hearing protection? Safer working conditions in general?
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