FACTORY TROUBLE - a film programme curated by Manuel Ramos


‘All contemporary politics has the factory as its place’. 

What is the relation of cinema to the factory today? According to Harun Farocki cinema is repelled by the factory. Straub and Huillet understand that the cine-camera is either too early or too late when it comes to film the factory. For Wang Bing to film an industrial complex is to experience an exile. This film programme explores the thwarted relation between the cinema and the factory: the distressing inadequacies of representation, the uncertainties of filmmakers with this space, the dissatisfaction of workers with the audio-visual media.

The programmed documentaries, essay-films and fictions develop inventive experiments with this frustration. In this sense the intention of this programme is not to confirm the powerlessness of cinema in regards to the realities of the factory. It is neither to simply denounce cinema’s ignominious connivance with the social order; a connivance eloquently phrased by Godard in his maxim ‘the exploiter doesn’t show the exploitation of the exploited’. Differently the programmed films make operational their thwarted relation to the factory, manufacturing singular articulations of dissent. These films visualize the capacity of cinema to intervene in how the factory (re)figures today. By looking at the singularity of these articulations, this programme provides a forum to discuss the contemporaneity of the cinema-factory pair and to re-think the sense(s) of cinema’s efficacy.

The programme includes films rarely seen (if ever) in the UK.





5pm RHB 309

With Kodwo Eshun

Arbeiter Verlassen die Fabrik (Workers Leaving The Factory, 1995) by Harun Farocki

‘Workers Leaving the Factory’ was the title of the first cinema film ever shown in public. These inaugural 45 seconds show workers leaving the photographic products factory in Lyon owned by the brothers Louis and Auguste Lumière. Only at the gates of the factory, in the ephemeral moment of departing, are the workers visible as a workforce. This paradox is at the core of Farocki’s visual re-working of the history of cinema.


British Sounds (1969), by the Dziga Vertov Group

Workers discuss workplace relations, students at Essex University make up posters, Maoism, The Beatles, multiple soundtracks, a point zero of cinema style, excerpts from Richard Nixon, Georges Pompidou, and The Communist Manifesto. Finally, a fist punches through a Union Jack. The film was made for (and then banned from) London Weekend Television.



5pm RHB 309

With Owen Hatherley (tbc) 

Tie Xi Qu (West of the Tracks, 2003) by Wang Bing [first part]

Wang Bing follows a group of factory workers in three state-run factories: a smelting plant, an electric cable factory and a sheet metal factory. Workers face sub-standard equipment, hazardous waste, and lack of safety precautions. The heavy industry that was once a vibrant example of China's socialist economy is in decline. The factories also face a constant lack of raw materials, leaving the workers concerned for their future, idle and critical of the situation.



5pm RHB 309

La Voix de Son Maître (The Voice Of His Master, 1978) by Gérard Mordillat and Nicholas Philibert

12 of the most important French CEOs talk about power, hierarchy, unions, strikes, self-organization. The film transforms their comments into a discourse left to its own devices. Without the intervention of an interviewer, their words explain without ceremony the logic of their world and the world they want everyone to live in. The film has been repeatedly banned in France. It was supported by Michel Foucault.



5pm SH (Small Cinema)

With Nicole Wolf

Der VW-Komplex (The VW Complex, 1990) by Hartmut Bitomsky (film tbc)

Bitomsky said: ‘I think that every film is a map on which a way has been marked out. In a good film a clever way has been chosen, which leads us past a number of places that invite us to cast a look aside. That is why I look for subjects that mark out this path for us, like the production lines in The VW Complex. When the subject has this sort of extending movement, then the film sets, so to speak, itself in motion. It’s like a river that passes by the camera’



5pm SH (Small Cinema)

With Alberto Toscano

A Bientôt J’Espère (Be Seeing You Soon, 1968) by Chris Marker and Mario Marret 

In 1967 Marker and Marret film the strike that broke out at Rhodiaceta, a textile plant owned by the Rhone-Poulenc trust in the city of Besançon, France. This film sympathetic to the strikers was passionatley rejected by the workers. The rejection signalled the beginning of a closer collaboration between filmmakers and workers and the constitution of the film collectives called Medvedkine Groups.



5pm SH (Small Cinema)

With Paolo Plotegher and E/J Gonzalez

Veinte Años No Es Nada (20 Years Is Nothing, 2004) by Joaquim Jordà

In the late seventies in Barcelona a factory is about to close. The workers decide to run the company by themselves. These events were documented in a collaborative film between the workers and Joaquim Jordà (Numax presenta). In 20 Years Is Nothing Jordà reunites with the Numax factory workers after two decades.  



5pm SH (Small Cinema)

With Brendan Prendeville and Alexander Garcia Düttmann

Trop Tôt, Trop Tard (Too Soon, Too Late, 1982) by Huillet-Straub (film tbc)

Serge Daney wrote about the film: ‘The Straubs accord much importance to not disturb the people filmed.  One therefore has to see the second part of Too Soon, Too Late as an odd performance, made up of approaches and retreats, where the filmmakers, less meteorologists than acupuncturists, search for the spot - the only spot.  Two dangers immediately present themselves: exotic tourism and the invisible camera. Too close, too far. The camera is planted in front of a factory gate and allows one to see Egyptian workers who pass, enter and leave. Too close for them not to see the camera, too far away for them to be tempted to go towards it. To find this point is at this moment the entire act of the Straubs’. 



5pm SH (Small Cinema)

With Prof. John Roberts and Sam Macauliffe

Tout Va Bien (1972) by Jean-Luc Godard

Godard said: ‘Cameras are forbidden in factories, in the workplace. For me, an informer, a filmmaker, there is hardly anywhere I am allowed to shoot. I’m not even allowed in so-called state-owned businesses.  I do not have the right to film in the subway or in a museum, a factory, an airport. I do not have the right to film in any of the places that represent 80% of productive activity in France. The exploiter never shows the exploited how he’s exploiting them’.



5pm SH (Small Cinema)

24 City (2008) by Jia Zhangke (film tbc) With Prof. Mike Wayne

The film focuses on what happens to some 30,000 workers when an outdated aviation factory in Sichuan Province is shut down and demolished to make way for a luxury highrise apartment complex.



5pm SH (Small Cinema)
With Owen Hatherley

West of the Tracks (2003) by Wang Bing [First Part]

Wang Bing follows a group of factory workers in three state-run factories in the Manchurian industrial complex of Tie Xi. 
The heavy industry centre that was once a vibrant example of China's socialist economy is in decline. The factories also face a constant lack of raw materials, leaving the workers concerned for their future, idle and critical of the situation. The film is an exercise of intense observationalism.