The Take: Cinema Tonic for the Ailing Activist -film review by Jason Briker

      12/5/04

 

A charge frequently leveled against the so-called antiglobalization movement, and not without some validity, is that it has been unable to suggest a viable alternative to the current global economic order. If not capitalism, then what? Surely everything else has been tried and proven a failure? Well, maybe not. Enter activist filmmakers Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein, who, in "The Take", document an inspiring economic movement that has blossomed from the rubble of Argentina's collapsed capitalist economy and has presented a novel challenge to the status quo.

 

For decades it was a thriving nation with the most robust middle class in Latin America, but by 2001 Argentina had gone into a virtual coma. This catastrophe was due in large part to the policies of the International Monetary Fund, a US-dominated global lending institution that, working under the banner of "economic cooperation" (to quote the IMF website), forces the economies of struggling nations to restructure, meaning privatize, so that they fall in step with the interests of capital investment. Argentina couldn't handle its dose of IMF chemo and defaulted on its loans, essentially declaring bankruptcy. With true economic authority transferred to international capitalist institutions, the Argentinian government was rendered impotent, almost irrelevant -- five presidents came and went in a period of three weeks.

 

On the streets, all hell broke loose: riots, demonstrations, the kind of popular unrest that makes Wall Street nervous. Unemployment shot sky high, banks stopped allowing people to withdraw their own money. And perhaps most devastating, the manufacturing sector imploded, and factories were simply abandoned by their owners.

 

But amidst the chaos, a few defiant groups of laid-off workers decided to keep working. Sure, the owners were gone, but they were never necessary to run the factory anyway. (The bosses, of course, would later disagree). It was resistance by production. And thus was born the occupied factory movement. Ownerless factories, workers policing themselves, wages being divided equally -- think of it as communism but without the Party and the mass killing. According to a December 4 http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=42&ItemID=6792

from Klein and Lewis, the movement now encompasses 200 workplaces and 15,000 workers.

 

Of course, from a Marxist standpoint, and a cinematic one as well, the occupied factory movement would not be the least bit compelling without a fierce enemy. Fortunately for revolutionaries and filmgoers, enemies in "The Take" are not in short supply. From corrupt ex-presidents to hostile Argentine courts, to riot squads that make Darth Vader's crack troops look like the Rockettes, "The Take" succeeds in dramatizing the multifaceted theater of economic warfare without giving short shrift to the complex back story of the war's many players and institutions. This film educates while it inspires.

 

Bearing a militant optimism that recalls John Reed's book Ten Days That Shook the World, "The Take" joins a growing list of documentaries that I like to call Red Bull movies. Like the energy drink so popular among today's partygoers, a Red Bull movie is a quick fix intended to be consumed by fatigued activists desperate for a second wind to continue the party into the night. In the course of a protracted historical struggle such as the one for economic justice (How long has it been going on for? A few thousand years?), it is easy to lose sight of the big goals and get discouraged, especially when the enemy appears to score so many victories, as it has of late. Activists, though, should take comfort -- "The Take" is good for what ails ya.

 

Steve CannonTribes