Considered the first motion picture presented in public, the Lumière Brothers’ Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory (1895) is indeed a very interesting place for cinematic projection to officially begin, laying bare the labor that underlies film production. This foundational work paved a path for what cinema might become—the capture and unique framing of daily life. Filmmakers from all corners of the globe, picked up this clarion call and over the subsequent years have created countless unforgettable documentaries (just like other filmmakers ran with the desire for fantastic scenarios and escape from exactly that which the Lumières focused on). This shorts program focuses on the Edenic slice of cinema and five responses to it, starting with a key practitioner of cinema-as-cinema-history, Harun Farocki, who—on the 100th anniversary of the original—breaks down the Lumière film as its ethos appears through film history in a variety of canonical works. Following Farocki are films by Ben Russell, transposing the labor to the Middle East, one global site of exploding development as high-rise buildings spring up throughout the landscape; Les Leveque, whose digital manipulation techniques introduce new forms of cinematic labor; Kevin Jerome Everson, whose film concerns the “job site,” hinting at a societal move away from traditional factory labor performed in one place over many years while signifying that manual labor as such hasn’t gone away—although things have changed; and Ernie Gehr, who moves us to the New York City subway, in foundational black-and-white, as the site of temporary departure (and thus eventual return). All of these films reflect on the place of labor in film history, and the place of film history in workers’ lives.
Films screening in this program:
Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory, dir. Louis & Auguste Lumière, 1895, 1 min., 16mm
Workers Leaving the Factory, dir. Harun Farocki, 1995, 36 mins., digital
Workers Leaving the Factory (Dubai), dir. Ben Russell, 2008, 8 mins., 16mm
Workers Leaving the Factory – Ten Days That Shook the World, dir. Les Leveque, 2011, 13 mins., digital
Workers Leaving the Job Site, dir. Kevin Jerome Everson, 2013, 7 mins., digital
Workers Leaving the Factory (After Lumière), dir. Ernie Gehr, 2014, 12 mins., digital