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http://www.felco.ojoobrero.org

Breakthrough at 1st Latin American Working Class
Film & Video Festival-To Tour US Next Year

Steve Zeltzer,
LaborFest, Labor Video Project

BUENOS AIRES, Nov. 26, 2004- It began with an avante garde and experimental music composition to film segments of Einsentein's Strike to the massive protest and rebellion in Argentina against the Menem government in 2001 that was produced by the labor film group and festival initiator Ojo Obrero. Titled "XO0N-Artistas Independientes Contemporaries", the 9 contributing artists brought the silent films to life with their music. This exciting original composition was performed by some of the leading musicians from Argentina and was held at the National de Artes de las Secretqeria de Cultura de la Nación. It was part of a production by Frente de Artistas en Lucha. (Front of Artists In Struggle).

This was the opening evening of the first Festival of Latin America working class Film and Video. It was sponsored not only by a organizing committee of independent labor film and video producers (www.felco.ojoobrero.org) and LuchArte but also received the support of the Argentinean Film Council and the use of their theaters for free. It was also supported by Palaise de Glace. The film festival organizers with a campaign were also able to get the council to produce 500 large festival posters that were placed on boulevard signs throughout the city.

Buenos Aires used to be the 3rd richest city in the world and Argentina the richest country in Latin America. The city was built on this past wealth but the collapse of the peso threw millions of workers and their families out of their jobs and many ended have ended up on the streets of the cities. This economic devastation has spread throughout Latin America. From Bolivia and Ecuador to Brazil and Mexico the people of the continent have seen their living standards torn to shreds.

These devastating and dire economic conditions have been planned and implemented in the US by the multinationals and the IMF with the collaboration of Menem and a host of US controlled puppet governments in the Americas.

These rebellions and explosions have been censored from the media in the US and around the world but were brought forward on the screen at the festival. The media in Argentina has also censored out the historic protests in neighboring country Bolivia against the effort to privatize gas and export it to Peru.

One of the films from this struggle in Bolivia,  "Fusil Metralla el pueblo no se calla" by Tercer Mundo had used tv footage, mainstream newspaper articles and powerful editing to show the massive explosion against the privatization of the gas industry and the successful movement to stop the export of this valuable resource to Peru.

The protests of indigenous Indians, women and unions from the miners to the teachers and students were tied together with fast clip editing and powerful scenes.

Tercer Mundo (tercermundo03@hotmail.com) had also traveled for 4 days by bus from La Paz to Buenos Aires to participate and screen their video at the festival. They were elated to meet with other labor film and video producers from around the world. One of the final scenes of their video is the hated US supported president of the country taking off on his jet to escape to Chile after using the army to massacre hundreds of trade unionists, peasants and indigenous people.

The festival screened dozens of films from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Uruguay. The films were selected by a showing them first at workers assemblys and community meetings throughout the country.

Viewers then chose their favorite films and these were the films screened at the festival. Two films were shown from the United States and Korea. Workers were stunned to see the violent attack on workers and students protesting the Iraq war in the film "Shots on The Docks" (lvpsf@labornet.org) and the film "Friend or Foe" by Labor News Production (mjkim@mediact.org) directed by Jiyoung Lee in Seoul Korea.

The experience of Korean telecommunication workers fighting contract labor and their long struggles and betrayal left a sharp impression on Argentinean workers since they are also fighting the destruction of permanent jobs.

One part of the festival was a retrospective of Raymundo Gleyzer who was a militant film maker during the 60´s and 70´s who was murdered by the military dictatorship which came to power with the support of Kissinger and the US in 1976. Four of Gleyzer's films were shown including "Los Traidores" about the transformation of a trade union militant into a supporter of the bosses and the government.

Attending the retrospective was musician and a leading actor of the film Victor Proncet. Proncet was joined by his son Carlos Pronzato who is now producing labor videos from throughout the Americas. One of his films on the Bolivian rebellion was screened at the fundacion Centro De Estudos Brasilleiros as well as "Revolta Do Buzu" of a city-wide protest of students against bus fare increases. The festival organizers also organized discussion panels during the festival on Militant Cinemas and the Popular Rebellions, The Experience and Practice of labor video producers, The Attack on Women by the Church and Global Economic Policies and The Movement of the Piquetero and the Elections. The Piquetero movement was a mass organized response to the economic collapse and the criminalization of the poor and unemployed by the government and capitalist media.

Committees were set up throughout the country that blocked roads and organized to provide food for the starving people. They also supporters hundreds of factory occupations. Many of these factory occupations have now been filmed by labor videographers and their documentaries were screened by the festival. Ojo Obrero was set up only  in 2001 and many of the other labor video groups came out of the Argentinian upheaval and the need to show this struggle on video not only in Argentina but throughout the world.

Some of the international conference participants stayed at a worker occupied hotel in downtown Buenos Aires. The hotel B.A.U.E.N. Coop. on Av. Callao 360 (b.a.u.e.n@latinmail.com). This hotel was seized by the workers and reopened as a cooperative. It has conventions and rents rooms around $20.00 for a single and $33.00 for a suite which includes breakfast.

The workers said it was a struggle to learn how to run the 210 room hotel but they have overcome and are now in a political battle to legalize worker occupations permanently not only for their hotel but for worker cooperatives throughout the country.

Seventy percent of the Piqueteros movement are women and many of these women are now organized politically in various Piqueteros groups that provide food and other support for the working class and poor women.

One of these movements Polo Obrero has forced the government to even provide food to their offices for distribution in the barrios and communities.

One of the films of this movement "Open The Road To The Women Fighters" (Paso a Las Luchadoras) by Ojo Obrero (www.ojoobrero.org) had previously been screened at Laborfest 2004 (www.laborfest.net) San Francisco.

Many of the labor film makers are also involved in labor media in general. Cine Piquetero (cinepiquetero@datafull.com) has established pirate broadcast television in some of the barrios.

The same time the festival was taking place, an encampment of ceramic workers from SOECN  were conducting a protest against the government next to the National Congress building. They had arranged a photo exhibition of their struggle and also were screening videos in the evening.

Another of the groups who had videos at the festival and at the screening of  the workers' encampment was Grupo Alavio (alaviocine@yahoo.com). They have also produced journals about their work in English. One of their films "Fallujah Bajo Sitio" compared the conditions that the Iraqis now face to the economic conditions facing the poor and oppressed in Argentina.

The festival organizers also proposed the establishment of an international labor media network that would produce on the web a journal of articles by labor media groups from around the world and also a data bank of all labor films and videos. It would also establish a calendar of all  labor film and cultural festivals throughout the world and links to their festivals. They also proposed that there be an open discussion and debate of labor film and videographers as well as radio producers about the issues and experiences of their productions. It also supported the initiative of the Bolivian group Tercer Mundo to have the festival in La Paz, Boliva in October 2005 and to support the distribution of the festival throughout the US and internationally. Laborfest organizers have offered to help circulate the festival throughout the US next year.

Labor Video activists, solidarity centers or Labor or Latin American studies programs can contact Laborfest for more information if they would like to screen the festival in their community. This festival marks a new beginning of working class film and video in Latin America and will provide a major impetus for its growth and expansion throughout the hemisphere. There are also discussions to have another Latin American Working Class Film and Video Festival in Buenos Aires and the first launching of a LaborTech Latin America conference alongside the festival next year. It would be supported by Labortech2004 (www.labortech2004.org) which was held this year in San Francisco. The importance of developing labor communication media and technology in Latin America to educate workers about their common struggles and to build solidarity is a critical task for the international labor media movement.


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