The Take (2004)

2:11 PM

In the midst of Argentina's political and economic crisis, the beleaguered workers of the closed-down Forja auto parts factory live by this simple motto: Occupy. Resist. Produce. Occupy the factory, resist the authorities, produce once again. 

Weary of joblessness and pennilessness under an apathetic and corrupt government, The Take focuses on Freddy Espinosa, the leader of the workers, while we follow his fight to reclaim his life by way of no bosses and no owners. A tactic which has worked wonderfully for other workers of foreclosed factories. Framed against the backdrop of the Argentinean Presidential election, we come to learn of the scummy means by which power is established in this country. Carlos Menem, the man who closed the Forja factory and hundreds of others like it, apologetically pleads with the people of Argentina to vote for him again in the next election, in spite of his wrong-doings.  It seems to work for the most part, even with a population where 50% lives below the poverty line, largely thanks to Menem. 

But amidst all this chaos, the hopeful voices of our loyal filmmakers, Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein sum up the situation in relatively understandable terms. And it's a tricky business, applying an all-seeing voice to a documentary. Naomi Klein positions herself at the forefront of this doc, humbly asking herself what the impact is of her political activism and where it'll lead her next. Touching for another time maybe. But a Western awakening to the plight of the socialism stricken worker is strongly self-congragulatory and by no means a sturdy framing structure for this story. But if we were ever in doubt of Klein's involvement, fear not because it's never long before she appears suddenly on camera, and most of the time without reason. You either have the vision to insert yourself fully into the work or you don't. Don't let's resort to childish peek-a-boo tactics of popping up every so often to assure to the audience that your presence is known as the filmic mastermind. So Naomi Klein are you a Moore or a Herzog? Make up your mind, for everybody's sake. No one likes a flakey commentator. 

But how do you judge a documentary? On its message? On its aesthetic value? We're predispositioned to sympathize with the subject matter of a documentary, and an opposing view on the work as a whole can be seen as a reflection on YOUR bad character. In this case, the subject matter is certainly fascinating and the struggle of the worker in a time of selfish Governmental empowerment in heart-wrenching and deeply angering. To the filmmakers' credit, the thorough discussion of the factors at play in the Argentinean economic climate is commendable considering a lack of knowledge of the situation at the time from a Western perspective. If only the documentary itself weren't constructed so horribly. It's not just aesthetically unappealing with badly-framed interviews and a collection of useless establishing shots, but it's cringe factor is through the roof. And how could it not be when with every slow pan of an empty factory floor, a tedious sickly sweet melody of strings is never far behind. But other than inspiring the occasional eyeroll, the musically overpowered shots of ghostly abandon during a time of need should facilitate a reaction of anger, not one of pity, like this film does. 

While the workers of the Argentinean factories are nothing short of inspiring, the documentarians have done them a disservice with their vision of this film. A truly impactful documentary would inspire a spark of passion on the part of the viewer, not basic sympathy. A sympathetic stance is worth nothing when a fight is needed.

My rating: 5 cats out of 10

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