This major documentary gets up close and personal with globalisation. The camera glides through a dark labyrinth of whirring, shuttling, flaming industry. It’s as if we’ve been transported back to a Dickensian world of unending toil – all cogs, levers and child labour.
Instead, we’re inside a textile mill in Gujarat, India, where 12-hour shifts are the order of the day, health and safety are low-priority, and pay runs to the equivalent of 25 US cents an hour. All to ensure that consumers around the world can fill their wardrobes with cheap clothes. ‘Machines’ brings an almost surreal intensity to its portrait of industrial output, yet never robs the workers of their individual dignity.
Director Rahul Jain spends a lot time silently observing their gruelling routine. But we also hear their thoughts, by turns resigned, despairing and defiant. Some accuse the filmmaker of being just like the politicians who turn up, look around and do nothing. It adds a confrontational edge to the film’s already startling combination of immersive aesthetics and humane empathy.