Wavelengths

The Nothing Factory

Pedro Pinho

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This elegiac epic from Portuguese filmmaker Pedro Pinho chronicles a bitter labour dispute sparked by the closure of a factory on the outskirts of Lisbon.

Pedro Pinho's The Nothing Factory details the labour dispute concerning closure of a factory on the outskirts of Lisbon. Shot in 16mm with a running time of nearly three hours, this elegiac film reflects on how traditional employment roles are shifting, and how workers no longer enjoy the stability and benefits that were the norm for previous generations. Reminiscent of films like Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin's Tout va bien, The Nothing Factory is a challenging and original film experience that reflects the recent social and political crisis in Portugal.

When management begins to sell off some of the equipment at a factory that makes elevator parts, the workers become nervous about their job security. Their fears are solidified when they are offered lump-sum payments rather than proper severance pay. As they weigh their options, including a strike and a tongue-in-cheek suggestion at an armed response, the workers are forced to continue showing up at work even though they lack the machinery to carry out their duties. They try to figure out ways to combat the monotony. At one point, they even break into a song-and-dance routine.

Interweaving the drama at the factory with dinner conversations on labour politics and the market economy and a sequence showing one of the workers at home with his family, Pinho and his ensemble cast — who are mainly factory workers in real life — construct a brilliant and unforgettable piece that explores our relationship to work and questions the very tenets of our capitalist society.

DIANA SANCHEZ

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