Documentary: ‘The Machinists’

Documentary films play an important role in raising awareness of factory life and working conditions in the garment and other industries. This documentary, made for the TV station Al Jazeera in 2010, is important to watch for this challenge. First we quote from a description of the film, then you can watch the tailer, beneath that is the whole film, and we end with a report on the film’s showing and discussion after the Rana Plaza collapse.


The Machinists directors, Hannan Majid and Richard York, spend little time on sensational stories like the fatal fires; instead, they focus on the quotidian misery that defines the lives of Bangladesh’s garment workers. … The Machinists allows three garment workers to tell their own stories in their own words. ”We wanted to humanize them by showing their every day lives, their struggles at home and at work, how this job and the long hours they have to work affects their family lives,” Majid said. … The machinists’ stories demystify the narrative that has shaped our image of the ready-to-wear garment trade. For most of us, this image is based on advertising copy showing happy actors playing satisfied customers buying new clothes at low prices. For others, the image is based on the healthy bottom lines of corporations that own brands like Tommy Hilfinger, Ralph Lauren, and Banana Republic and retail giants like Walmart. But the reality is much darker.

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The trailer

The whole film

A report from a screening

I went to a screening of ‘The Machinists’ a documentary featuring garment workers during their day to day dealings. A great piece and one I thoroughly enjoyed watching (the one part of my evening I actually enjoyed). After the documentary a discussion ensued, what followed, I guess should have been expected. The discussion held at the ‘Cholo Kheli’ in hipster rich east London was chaired by the Bangladeshi high commissioners wife and ranged from dismissing unfair pay and treatment as a minimal issue, the shunning of a question from the audience asking about child labor, to one of the organizers responding to my question on what the Bangladeshi government were doing with a loud “let’s leave politics out of this”. Politics is exactly this, it is activism, it is fighting for a cause, it is implementing change and getting others to follow this lead. I’m not sure as to how you can except to discuss fashion and factory workers in Bangladesh excluding politics.

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To find our more about this film and its makers, see their website here.

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