India | 2016 | 75 min | Hindi, English
Descending through the corridors and bowels of an enormous, disorienting structure, this dizzying documentary takes us to a dehumanised world of intense physical labour and hardship— a gigantic textile factory in Sachin, Gujarat, where, since the 1960s, unregulated industrialisation has been rampant. With no voiceover, captions or musical score, the narrative unfolds against an ecosystem of machines—dull steel contraptions that clunk, click and whirr—and carefully selected interviews with the factory’s workers. The film’s gliding form provides a chilling juxtaposition with the stagnancy of the workers’ socioeconomic status. This is explicitly political filmmaking—a direct call for unionisation, better pay and reasonable hours, rather than a pitying ethnography—which notably allows the workers to directly question director Rahul Jain’s capacity to either intervene or help.
Born in New Delhi, Rahul Jain grew up in the Himalayas and recently graduated from the California Institute of the Arts, US. He is currently pursuing a master’s in aesthetics and politics. Machines is Rahul’s debut film, of which he says, “As a five-year- old, I used to roam around my grandfather’s textile mill in Surat. I was overwhelmed by the machines. It was this sensation of being minuscule in front of the gigantic processing machines that took me back to a similar factory 20 years later—with a camera … A lack of unionised labour in a densely populated, accelerating economy leaves room for deliberate overlooking of a multitude of human beings for the interests of a few. It is not just one factory, it’s a civilisational structure. The systems that allow this to happen are the ones that needs collective acknowledgement.”