The 21-year-old Nica abandoned her agronomy studies to move back home to her native Apulia. She came home to find her father deep in debt, polluted land and Xylella-infected olive trees. All may well seem lost, but Nica never gives up and does not accept difficulties passively. She prefers to fight: she puts her studies to good use, adopting techniques and knowledge to revive her land despite a bleak and desolate landscape.
The story of Nica in “Semina il vento” (Sowing the wind), a 2020 film directed by Danilo Caputo, tells a story with positive, optimistic overtones, with a protagonist determined to save her family’s business and the centuries-old trees that represent its identity.
“Semina il vento” is one of the headliners at Job Film Days 2021, the second edition of the film festival dedicated to addressing issues of work and rights in the Cinema Massimo at Turin’s National Museum of Cinema. The programme included 60 films from different countries, including four Italian premieres, with stories from the local area and works from around the world, focused on the most contemporary issues concerning work. Women, young people, job prospects, occupational safety are just some of the topics covered.
“Telling the world of work helps us to come into contact with capable and enterprising young people, who find space in the short film competition, or in more complex products that describe a complex and active humanity in need of expanding its horizons”, explains Annalisa Lantermo, festival director.
“Semina il vento”, for instance, is above all a film about work that focuses on a female lead character, who like many others in this year’s edition occupies a prominent place at the festival.
The films in the programme reveal a fragmented and diversified world, driven towards innovation and yet anchored in old inequalities. Women are discriminated against, paid less than men, in some cases excluded from the labour market by law, and are often called upon to invent new opportunities in the folds of a society that strives to hold them back.
Women in the spotlight
Women can provide ideas and energy to tackle global problems, such as the Jordanian women in the film Waterproof who work on household plumbing because men cannot enter a woman’s home if her husband is not there. They find themselves having to deal with a huge problem of water recovery (not waste, as is most often the case in Europe and the western world) in a land that desperately needs and searches for water in all possible ways.
There are many films in which the female protagonists face an uphill struggle, starting from difficult conditions and then blossoming into a more or less optimistic ending. It is a constant in many films, an optimism that is perhaps needed at this time.
Work is also a means of emancipation, as the films presented during the Turin festival portray. “Made in Bangladesh”, for example, is about working in a garment factory in the city of Dhaka. In order to cope with the difficult working conditions following a serious accident, the protagonist Shimu and her colleagues decide to form a union. She remains steadfast in her resolve to move forward despite threats from her bosses and the lack of approval from her husband. She manages to involve more women: they struggle in very difficult working conditions and react to a community, a culture, a society that is against them.
“Women in the workplace is certainly a highly developed issue in many countries: in the review several films talk about it mainly in a positive way. Overall, there are many films in which the female protagonists face an uphill struggle, starting from difficult conditions and then blossoming into a more or less optimistic ending. It is a constant in many films, an optimism that is perhaps needed at this time“, says director Lantermo.
Work and technology
Some films depict workers, who have always been a symbol of the entire working class, as helpless witnesses to the events taking place in the modern city, which is increasingly moving towards post-industrial development. They are often immersed in a world distorted by innovation, which on the one hand has introduced possibilities that were unimaginable a few years ago, but on the other has created a new kind of precariousness that still seems to escape the legislator’s schemes.
This is particularly the case with the gig economy. An extremely relevant issue that concerns the fate and prospects of millions of workers worldwide. The Job Film Days 2021 opened with Shannon Walsh’s “The Gig Is Up” (Canada/France, 2021), which recounts the hardships and prospects of the new precarious situation.
Sometimes innovation can also feel like a return to the past. Diego Scarponi’s “Fantasmi a Ferrania” (Ghosts at Ferrania) tells the story of Ferrania, a 100-year-old film factory in a small inland Ligurian village. A vast valley steeped in the chemistry of the photosensitive, generations of men and women who, in the dark, created photographic rolls, film, X-rays, printing plates. Yet they revived not just a company, but entire families and places.
One theme as yet unexplored, however, is that of the pandemic, with the most recent transformations of the labour market. “The cinema is telling this story, but only in part”, says director Lantermo. “The output of films on work, and on the changes of the last year and a half, is not particularly large in Italy. There are many short films about the closure of theatres or the difficulties of operators in this or that sector. But there are still not many Italian feature films and documentaries on this subject”, Lantermo concludes.