WE THE WORKERS
Directed by Wen Hai
Official Selection, 2017 International Film Festival Rotterdam
Official Selection, 2017 Cinema du Reel Film Festival
Official Selection, 2017 Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema
China boasts the world’s largest workforce, and with nearly 800 million workers, is widely known as the manufacturing capital of the world. But behind its economic triumphs, the relentless demand for production and its abundant source of human capital have created an environment in which the rampant exploitation of workers is business as usual. Branded by local officials as troublemakers, labor organizers risk their own safety to advocate for workers’ basic rights to full wages, safe working conditions, and protection from wrongful termination. However, their toughest challengers are not just the corrupt owners and managers but oftentimes the disenfranchised workers themselves who fear retaliation and have little hope in attaining the rights that should be afforded to them by law.
Filmed between 2009 and 2015, director Wen Hai pulls the curtain back on an industry built on the backs of cheap labor and humanizes workers who are invisibilized by profit. WE THE WORKERS pays homage to the labor activists and organizations that, in extended strokes of deliberation and strategy, strive to transform the bleak reality of factory workers in Southern China. Armed only with the courage of their convictions, activists and allies operate within limited legal channels to pressure companies to rectify their transgressions and acknowledge the agency of their employees. Their victory goes beyond getting good laws written; it validates justice based on the recognition of human dignity. Most remarkably, workers empowered by the prospect of equity gradually develop a collective consciousness and realization of their strength through solidarity. –Malou Amparo Robas