Uthan De Vela/A Time to Rise
Canada 1981, 16 mm, 40 min
A Time to Rise was filmed by Patwardhan and Jim Monro in Canada from 1979 to 1981. It documents the struggle to form Canada’s first farmworkers’ union made up of Indian and Chinese labour contracted to pick raspberries, strawberries and mushrooms in British Columbia. Its duration was determined by the time allotted for lunch break by the Canadian Farmworkers Union (CFU) which regularly screened A Time to Rise in their efforts to win public support for the farmworkers’ strike against the established labour contract system. A Time to Rise sensitively depicted the encumbered lives of Sikh migrants through interviews that posed bright blue turbans and effulgent white beards against the depleted skies and green verges of Vancouver’s suburbs. The drama of the fight between the newly born union and the complacent violence of the ‘grower’ was powerfully captured in a scene where protestors call to the workers from the road, urging them to drop tools and join the march. A camera zooms into the faces of the farm labourers who hesitate, looking back at the protesters, measuring the distance between them. Then the tension breaks; the workers overcome their doubts, running down the muddy path to join the cheering protestors in their new life.
India 1996, video, 22 min, Hindi, English subtitles
Outside the shuttered factory, mill-workers chant ‘Restart, Restart, Restart the closed mills!’ Over the vivid skyline of Bombay, the camera settles upon a chimney. A caption reads: ‘Textile mills were once the backbone of Bombay’s economy. Workers in their thousands brought the city its working class culture. Today increased foreign investment and rising real-estate prices have made it more profitable to sell mills than to run mills.’ Operation Mill-worker documents the events of February 1992 when workers forcibly occupied the factories of the New Great Eastern Mill after a four-year lock out. Led by the Closed Mills Action Committee, the film reveals the determination of the workers to reopen their mill. The anxiety experienced during the occupation is transmitted through songs, interviews, an evening screening of Patwardhan’s Bombay Our City and a tense confrontation with the police. Operation Mill-worker ends in a fleeting moment of triumph with workers gathering outside the factory gates to celebrate a court order to reopen the Great Eastern Mill.
Janna Graham is an artist, critic and educator. Graham is a member of the sound collective Ultra-red and works with the Precarious Workers Brigade in London. She is currently Projects Curator at the Serpentine Gallery and runs The Centre for Possible Studies in Edgware Road, London. Graham is a PhD candidate and Tutor in the Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London.
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Tate Film is supported by Maja Hoffmann / LUMA Foundation