A job as a seamstress tempts Juana, a young Bolivian woman, to neighbouring Argentina. Her husband and child remain behind in their homeland. It doesn´t take long for the illusion of financial gain to burst - Juana is being exploited and must produce textiles for a luxury brand. Her employer´s demands become ever more absurd, working conditions become unbearable. When her son becomes ill, Juana starts making plans to return, but as far as her employer is concerned, leaving is not an option.
A silver lining with a cloud. At the film´s very beginning young Bolivian Juana (Juana Salgueiro) has the extreme fortune to be chosen for a seamstress job in Argentina. But she soon realizes that the bus to Buenos Aires won´t be taking her baby or husband, and nothing can be done about it. After a quick goodbye, Juana leaves her husband and crying child behind.
And things are no better once she in arrives in the capital. Juana spends 16 hours each day sewing clothes in an illegal sweatshop. Both the boss and customer push the workers: Eight hundred fashionable children´s outfits must be put together in record time, brand-name clothes, of course. Someone else will do it if they don´t. The workers sleep at the factory. Juana finds out that her child is sick, and she faces the choice of either returning home and giving up the little money she has earned or continuing to slave away.
Talleres Clandestinos - "clandestine workshop" - is a film about people whose choices in fact do not involve any real choice. The cheerful radio music that plays in the sweatshop to cover up the sound of the sewing machines cannot however conceal the fact that this is modern-day slavery. Director Catalina Molina takes a realistic look at her protagonist, empathetic but without any illusions, and points out the drastic exploitation primarily in minor gestures, intimate moments and her direction: Helplessness revealed by the camerawork and editing is juxtaposed with stereotypical seamstress work, jump cuts tell us of monotony and the theft of part of an individual´s life. When, at the conclusion, the camera leaves the protagonist, from whom everything has been taken, and enters the anonymous urban environment, demands for corporate social responsibility seem like something dreamed up by business consultants from a faraway planet.
Translation: (Steve Wilder)
english print version