The working class in cinema
Globally, May 1 is observed as Labour Day to honour the lives of workers, who are the foundation of development. To commemorate this important day, here is a collection of movies and shows with noteworthy characters who portray the many challenges faced by the working class.
Bong Joon-ho's "Parasite" made history by becoming the first non-English film to win an Oscar for Best Picture. The critically acclaimed film revolves around two families at opposite ends of the economic class spectrum. When their son is employed by the wealthy Parks, the Kim family is presented with a golden opportunity to find a way to coexist in the same ecosystem. It highlights how poor families are economically dependent on wealthy families and how the wealthy ones are completely reliant on working-class families' labor, raising the question of which family is truly parasitic. The film not only explores the struggles of the working class but also sheds light on the power dynamic induced by stark class differences.
Directed by Anubhav Sinha, "Bheed" narrates the tale of millions of Indian workers who fled the capital for their rural homes during the peak of the pandemic. It skillfully depicts the misery of these migrant workers who were left jobless, forced to walk hundreds of kilometers to reach home during the lockdown. With just the barest access to food, shelter, little to no money, sealed borders, and a general lack of infrastructure to support them, this compelling drama provides an almost accurate portrayal of the extreme suffering faced by working-class people during a global crisis. The black and white documentary also explores the discrimination faced by these people due to class differences in Indian society.
The Measure of a Man
Set in the French countryside, this Stéphane Brizé directorial portrays the struggles of a blue-collar worker who is losing his way due to underemployment, bureaucratic indifference, a failing social safety net, and corporate greed. The plot revolves around the protagonist, Thierry, struggling to maintain family harmony due to his job skills becoming obsolete and assistance from the government shrinking. What makes this film remarkable is its true depiction of unemployment and how it attempts to strip an individual of their dignity. Throughout the film, Thierry is frantically searching for a job, and when he finally lands one, it comes with its own set of challenges. In short, this movie is a wonderful representation of the social struggles faced by the working class on a regular basis.
In this film, Shaheen Dill-Riaz, a Bangladeshi documentary filmmaker residing in Berlin, offers a humanistic tale about destitute farmers who attempt to leave the annual famine that ravages northern Bangladesh in search of work in a shipbreaking yard in the south. Throughout the film, Dill-Riaz refers to them as "iron eaters," symbolically indicating how desperately they are trying to survive. The film is set in their place of work and depicts the activities of the shipyards and the struggles of the employees who work in a dangerous but low-paying environment. It provides a closer look into the persistent struggles of labor within the subcontinent and implies how the workers themselves become "scrapped men" towards the end of the process of dismantling enormous metallic ships.
Directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, this Netflix documentary traces the story of a Chinese millionaire who establishes a business in an abandoned General Motors facility, hiring two thousand Americans. Initial feelings of excitement and hope are replaced by setbacks as high-tech China competes with working-class America. At its core, the film explores the cultural conflict while discussing the important role played by labor unions and worker solidarity. It brilliantly represents the bargaining