BURNABY, B.C. (CUP) — The Take is author and activist Naomi Klein’s latest effort to raise Canadian awareness about the consequences of globalisation. The documentary offers viewers a glimpse into the lives of Argentinean workers displaced by the spectacular turn-of-the-millennium economic collapse of their country.
In 2001, as businesses went bankrupt and half the population slipped below the poverty line due to President Carlos Menem’s “business-friendly” economic policies, Argentinean workers chose to take over abandoned factories and work in employee cooperatives. Set against the backdrop of this growing and unusual worker revolt, The Take follows the Forja San Martin auto-parts factory workers as they struggle with lawmakers in bringing their old workplace to life again.
The Take works best when it allows the lives of the workers to speak for themselves. In a brief sequence at the beginning of the film, Klein and her fellow producer, Avi Lewis, are shown as guests on various news shows, where their opponents chew them out for not providing a viable alternative to the economic policies they criticise. In fact, this is a problem that many activists from First World countries such as Canada face; their opinions come off as nothing more than bleeding heart impracticality.
Realising this, Klein and Lewis smartly decide to shut up and hand the microphone over to the Argentineans. It is much harder to dismiss the criticisms of people living through the devastating realities created by theoretical economics put into practice. One moving scene occurs when a worker’s wife admits that her family has gone from being able to enjoy small luxuries like family trips to choosing between paying off debts and feeding their children.
The film shines when it shows what truly drives and motivates the workers. They do not possess a sense of entitlement; they do not act like the world owes them any favours. They are angry and sad — at times crying tears of hopelessness — but they are not consumed by these emotions, and they do not spend most of their time pointing fingers at the powers that be. They are driven by the love and respect they have for their families and each other. Near the end of the film, a woman describes with palpable pride how the workers at a factory co-operative allowed her sister to attend chemo and radiation therapy without a pay cut.
The film runs into some trouble, however, when it detours into a number of tangents regarding the 2003 presidential election and local legislative practices. The problem is not that these issues are irrelevant, as both have the potential to greatly impact the factory workers’ lives. The problem is in the way these issues are presented. The filmmakers gloss over the legal environment that the Forja San Martin factory workers are struggling with. In fact, when it seems that other factories were simply taken over, without any regard to legal consequences, the filmmakers do not explain why these particular workers need to see the passage of a legislative bill before restarting the factory.
Regarding the presidential election, Klein and Lewis sidetrack to the controversial ways in which candidates try to acquire votes. It’s an interesting topic, but it is one that does not support the main focus of the film. At these times, it seems that Klein and Lewis assume that viewers can make assumptions themselves, or already know information that really needs to be explained.
Thankfully, these inconsistencies do not detract greatly from the film. Overall, it is a worthwhile viewing experience. Klein and Lewis have produced an illuminating, moving, and tension-filled film that they can proudly take back to their opponents, showing that perhaps the greatest alternative to destructive policies is the will and determination of wronged people.