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Film festival highlights class struggle and social justice issues

Mayworks hosts satellite screening of labour films

4 min read
Wide shot, side view of people sitting and facing a stage
caption People gathered at the Bus Stop Theatre for a satellite screening of Canadian Labour International Film Festival hosted by Mayworks.
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A film screening last Friday centering around themes of class struggle and social justice issues left attendees thinking about how labour connects us all.

The screening at the Bus Stop Theatre included seven short films from Canadian Labour International Film Festival (CLIFF) based in Toronto, totalling a runtime of 87 minutes. A moderated discussion period followed.

Two documentaries shown at the screening, Serigne (Spain, 2023) and HongKongers: A Re-Collection – My Destiny or My Choice? (U.K., 2022) especially highlighted how labour can be a reason for people from different countries to become interconnected by framing it through immigration.

Serigne followed Serigne Mbay, an immigrant turned politician, as he works to educate his fellow citizens and politicians about the effects of current European fishing trade agreements on his home country of Senegal.

HongKongers followed the experience of Siu Tat Mung, a leader in the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, as he recounts his experiences during the last few years of its existence. Mung explains the harsh conditions in Hong Kong for workers and trade unionists as well as his reasons for relocating to Great Britain.

Attendees say they were glad to see different films from around the world as well as how the screening facilitated an environment of sharing and solidarity.

Logan Murray said, “I really like how they show an interconnected way that labour affects us all.”

Lisa Wilson said she was “really drawn to the idea of seeing working-class situations in an international perspective. I really found that was interesting and I think it’s great that they can bring to light situations and experiences that people might not otherwise know about.” However, she said, she would have liked to see more people attend.

“I thought that the discussion period at the end was really cool,” said Brandy Whitford, recalling how living in pandemic times, she felt isolated and disjointed from other people so it felt good to engage in a group setting.

The screening was attended by around 20 people. While that seems low, CLIFF board member Deedee Slye said every individual showing up matters.

“There’s a few people here but it’s an opportunity for conversation and I keep thinking every year that more and more people will come and I think they will.” Satellite screenings happen throughout November in different cities across Canada.

Man standing on stage in front of a screen, talking
caption Festival director Sébastien Labelle introduced the films to the audience and facilitated a discussion afterwards.
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“Mayworks is an avenue to promote a culture of solidarity, a culture that celebrates what a day like May Day represents and celebrates. The various struggles we see through social justice movements and bring light to those values and the spirit of those struggles and their ambitions, their goals,” said festival director Sébastien Labelle.

Hosted by Mayworks, Festival of the Working People and the Arts in collaboration with CLIFF, the screening was pay-what-you-can donation-based to keep the event as accessible as possible. The two festivals have a similar mandate in that they both stand to create a place for the working people within the arts.

Labelle said the festival revolves around “a theme that relates to solidarity and social justice with a primary focus on labour and workers.”

“I think we’re confronted in our society in general with pressures to be individualistic and atomized. I think what we’re trying to do through Mayworks is kind of promote values of community and solidarity and collective action towards building a better world.”

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