April 28, 2003
Undergrad brings May Day Labor Film Festival
screenings to UCSC April 30
By Jennifer McNulty
Community studies major Shannon Pate has combined her passion for documentary
film with political activism to bring two powerful films to UCSC as
part of the upcoming second annual May
Day Labor Film Festival.
Ironworker Denise Johnson
is featured in Hammering it Out, one of the films in the
Thanks largely to Pates organizing, UCSC will host the screenings
of Behind the Labels and Hammering It Out, two pathbreaking
documentaries by women filmmakers that showcase the role of women in
the contemporary labor movement.
The films will be shown Wednesday, April 30, at 7 p.m. in the Kresge
Town Hall. The screenings are open to the public; admission is by donation.
Produced and directed by Academy Award-winner Tia Lessin, Behind
the Labels is a film about the exploitation by U.S. corporations
of female garment workers on the Pacific island of Saipan, the only
U.S. territory exempt from labor and immigration laws. The workers
undercover video footage of their sweatshop working conditions spawned
an international outcry. Hammering It Out, directed by Vivian
Price, depicts the experiences of women in the building trades on the
Century Freeway Womens Employment Project in Los Angeles.
Pate has arranged for both directors to attend the screenings and discuss
their films with the audience. They will be joined by Carmencita "Chie"
Abad, a former garment worker in Saipan who is now a labor activist
with Global Exchange.
Dubbed "Womens Night," the UCSC event is part of Pates
senior project. "Film is a great way to get people interested in
certain issues," said Pate. "I know in the past it has inspired
me to learn more about what I can do on certain issues."
Pate saw Behind the Labels and briefly met Lessin and Price
last year during a visit to Washington, D.C. Behind the Labels
tells the story of women from the Philippines, China, Thailand, and
elsewhere in Asia who were lured to Saipan with promises of high-paying
jobs only to find themselves earning a pittance and living in miserable
conditions. Because of the labor-law exemption, garments made in Saipan
for manufacturers including The Gap, J. Crew, and Polo carry the "Made
in the USA" label, explained Pate.
The film features footage made by garment workers who smuggled video
cameras into factories to document the conditions in which they were
working, said Pate. "Its really such an amazing story,"
she said. "It shows how women have control over their situation
and can change things. Thats really great."
Pate, a graduating senior, will document her work on two film festivals
as part of her senior project on film and social documentary. In addition
to the labor film festival, Pate is a volunteer organizer of the Critical
Resistance Film Festival that will take place at the end of May. That
two-day festival features films about the prison industrial complex
and will include screenings at UCSC and off campus. Pate is coordinating
the UCSC event, which will include a panel discussion; the second night
is being co-organized by Barrios Unidos.
The UCSC screenings of Behind the Labels and Hammering It
Out are supported in part by funding from a grant administered by
the Community Studies and Latin American and Latino Studies Departments
for undergraduates and graduate students conducting research on labor
issues, said Paul Ortiz, assistant professor of community studies and
Pates academic adviser.
The May Day Labor Film Festival will take place April 27-May 1. Among
the films being screened are The Navigators by Ken Loach, about
British Rail workers and their government's drive to privatize in the
1990s, and the restored classic Matewan, the award-winning portrayal
by director John Sayles of the 1920s miners' revolt in West Virginia.
A full schedule is available online.
Among the festival sponsors are the UCSC Center for Justice, Tolerance,
and Community and the Community Studies Department.