Resist. Occupy. Produce.
Mantra of Argentina's fabricas occupadas, it's also the theme for director Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein's The Take, an ambitious documentary of a movement as it unfolded.
Anti-globalization protests have become a universal cry of frustration for the second-class citizens in the global world order. Not just documenting a movement, The Take is a response to those who attack the left for being high on opinions and short on action. This is about making an alternative economy visible to mass audiences.
The film brings the neo-liberalism debate to Argentina, a country with little media attention since the virtual collapse of its economy a few years back. Some may vaguely remember scenes of rioting middle class citizens shouting "Que se vayan todos! (All of them out!)" back in 2001. Lewis and Klein demonstrate how the fallout of that devastation created an environment with the potential to turn the globalization debate on its head.
Occupied factories emerged even before the riots and the subsequent resignation of President Fernando de la Rua. Unemployed workers, particularly in Buenos Aires, put abandoned factories back to work and the movement has since spread to include schools and health care facilities. Remarkable not only because they are cooperatively operated, these institutions manage to turn a profit while ensuring sustainable wages.
While the reclaimed factories enjoy popular support from the masses, the directors pay particular attention to the struggle of workers trying to gain legal recognition for their cooperatives. The situation of individual workers and their families is played against the upcoming elections and the threat of former owners seeking to reclaim their investments in the light of the newfound profitability.
While focused on the perspective of those inside the workers' movement, the film give the obligatory nod to the powers that be. Former President Menem is interviewed and Avi Lewis tries to speak to an IMF employee as the door slams and the car speeds away. The journalists' unabashed left-leanings ensure those against the workers are portrayed as the bad guys, but it would be difficult to argue their policies when they were responsible for the country's economic quagmire.
Drawing audiences into a situation seemingly far off, the emotional impact of the film comes from its very personal perspective . The Take may suffer from the same criticism as Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, as both films plays the emotional card to turn viewers toward its perspective on the issue. However, the effects of the film are real within and without.
With its assertion of the possibility to create change from the bottom up, The Take definitely succeeds in creating a new energy for the activist cause. While the overarching reality is not downplayed, its ultimate message is encouraging. The result is a hopeful and inspiring film.