March 14, 2018

Factory Complex: She Works Hard for Little Money

The exploitation of women in the workplace is hardly something new. We've all seen Norma Rae at this point and we all know about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire tragedy. Or at least, we should! Yet this harsh reality of second-classing the second sex is hardly restricted to the American workplace. In the deservedly prize-winning Factory Complex, director Im Heung-soon zooms in on the systemic mistreatment and abuse of the female labor force, an ongoing oppression that's playing out not just in South Korea but also in countries where South Korean companies have taken root. And while the documentary definitely has firm roots in the garment industry, with testimonials of textile workers from both the homeland and further afield, it also broadens the scope of its inquiry — or better yet, its condemnation — of the sexism, misogyny, and utter human disregard to include air line workers, call center operators, and even check-out clerks.

Please understand, this isn't Harlan County USA or Roger and Me. For while Factory Complex definitely has its grit and its devastating details, the film also has an unapologetic artiness. (It screened at the Venice Biennale in 2015 and you can't get much artier than that.) As much a creative as a chronicler, Im can't resist adding surreal interstitials — two cloaked female heads sharing unheard secrets; an expanse of black wig invading a section the grocery store. Are they weird? Yes. Do they get in the way of the larger story? Not really. Plus, once you've seen laborers being gunned down in Cambodia simply for staging a protest as they fight for better wages, you know your sympathies lie with Im as an artist-activist, quirks and all. Equality now! Equal rights, equal pay! The future is female!

As Shirley Chisolm once said, "In the end, anti-black, anti-female, and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing — anti-humanism."

No comments:

Post a Comment