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Labor

Labor as a settting: The relation between humans and their work is a complex one; work literally keeps us occupied on a daily basis. Working is not only about earning money; it's also about identity, it can become a burden, labour can be joy and it is existence. Work is a layered topic. It is therefore often the focus of many feature films and documentaries. We have put together a few films in which work plays an significant role and which illuminate the topic from various perspectives.

The Load (2018)
Ognjen Glavonić
Serbia
98′
Vlada works as a truck driver during the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999. Tasked with transporting a mysterious load from Kosovo to Belgrade, he drives through unfamiliar territory, surrounded by the consequences of the war. When his job is over, Vlada needs to return home and face the consequences of his actions.
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Western (2017)
Valeska Grisebach
Bulgaria
120′
A group of German construction workers start a tough job at a remote site in the Bulgarian countryside. The foreign land awakens the men's sense of adventure, but they are also confronted with their own prejudice and mistrust due to the language barrier and cultural differences. The stage is quickly set for a showdown when men begin to compete for recognition and favor from the local villagers.
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Paterson (2016)
Jim Jarmusch
United States
118′
Paterson is a bus driver in the city whose name her shares: Paterson, New Jersey. Every day, he drives his route and observes the city as it drifts across his windshield. During his lunch break, he writes poetry into a notebook. In contrast to Paterson's steady routine, his wife Laura's world is constantly changing. New dreams come to her almost daily, each a different and inspired project.
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Closely Watched Trains (1966)
Jiri Menzel
Czech Republic
89′
The young Miloš Hrma, who speaks with misplaced pride of his family of misfits and malingerers, is engaged as a newly trained station guard in a small railway station during the Second World War and the German occupation of Czechoslovakia. He admires himself in his new uniform, and looks forward, like his prematurely-retired railwayman father, to avoiding real work. The sometimes pompous stationmaster is an enthusiastic pigeon-breeder with a kind wife, but is envious of the train dispatcher Hubička's success with women. Miloš holds an as-yet platonic love for the pretty, young conductor Máša. The experienced Hubička presses for details of their relationship and realizes that Miloš is still a virgin. The idyll of the railway station is periodically disturbed by the arrival of the councillor, Zednicek, a Nazi collaborator, who spouts propaganda at the staff without success. At her initiative, Máša spends the night with Miloš, but in his youthful excitability he ejaculates prematurely before achieving penetration and then is unable to perform sexually; and the next day, despairing, he attempts suicide. He is saved, and a young doctor explains to him that ejaculatio praecox is normal at Miloš's age. The doctor recommends Miloš to "think of something else" (at which point Miloš volunteers an interest in football), and to seek the assistance of an experienced woman. During the nightshift, Hubička flirts with the young telegraphist, Zdenička, and imprints her thighs and buttocks with the office's rubber stamps. Her mother sees the stamps and complains to Hubička's superiors, and the ensuing scandal helps to frustrate the stationmaster's ambition of being promoted to inspector. The Germans and their collaborators are on edge, since their trains are being attacked by the partisans. A glamorous Resistance agent (a circus artist in peacetime), code-named Viktoria Freie, delivers a time bomb to Hubička for use in blowing up a large ammunition train. At Hubička's request, the "experienced" Viktoria also helps Miloš to resolve his sexual problem. The next day, at the crucial moment when the ammunition train is approaching, Hubička is caught up in a farcical disciplinary hearing, overseen by Zednicek, over his rubber stamping of Zdenička's backside. In Hubička's place, Miloš, liberated by his experience with Viktoria from his former passivity, takes the time bomb and drops it from a semaphore gantry, that extends transversely above the tracks, onto the train. A machine-gunner on the train, spotting Miloš, sprays him with bullets, and his body falls onto the train. With the Nazi collaborator Zednicek, winding up the disciplinary hearing, dismissing the Czech people as "nothing but laughing hyenas" (a phrase actually employed by the senior Nazi official Reinhard Heydrich, the implicit retort to his jibe comes in the form of a huge series of explosions that destroys the train. Now Hubička and the other railwaymen are indeed laughing - to express their joy at the blow to the Nazi occupiers - and it is left to a wistful Máša to pick up Miloš's uniform cap, hurled across the station by the power of the blast. (wp)
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Durak (2014)
Juri Bykow
Russia
121′
Dima Nikitin is a simple and honest plumber who works in a small Russian town. Except for his unusual integrity, nothing makes him stand out of the crowd, until one night in a dorm mainly occupied by drunkards and outcasts, the pipes burst, endangering the occupants. Everybody needs to be immediately evacuated but nobody cares, so Nikitin sets off on a night-long odyssey to fight an entire system of corrupt bureaucrats.
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The Lunchbox (2013)
Ritesh Batra
India
105′
A mistaken delivery in Mumbai's famously efficient lunchbox delivery system connects a young housewife to an older man in the dusk of his life as they build a fantasy world together through notes in the lunchbox.
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No Man Is an Island (2017)
Dominique Marchais
France
96′
No Man Is an Island travels across Europe, from the farmers working together in the Galline Felici cooperative in Sicily to the architects, craftspersons and elected representatives who collaborate in the Swiss Alps and in Austria. All are engaged in politics through their work and all believe in a common destiny. Is the local level the last possible place for a viable utopia?
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with bonus
Cairo Station (1958)
Youssef Chahine
Egypt
73′
Bonus:
Melodrama and thriller, social drama and love story in one, the masterly feature film by the Egyptian director Youssef Chahine, made in 1958, is located entirely on the station grounds. The old Madbouli is the owner of a kiosk at Cairo's main railway station. One day he finds a half-starved, poor man at the edge of the tracks. Madbouli feels sorry for the sad-looking, limping farmer Kenaoui and hires him as a flying newspaper salesman. At work, Kenaoui meets the beautiful Hanouma every day, who also earns her living at the station by supplying travellers with lemonade drinks. Kenaoui falls for the cheerful woman and makes it his goal to marry her. Lonely and in obsessive longing, he cuts out lightly dressed women from magazines in his hut at the edge of the train station in the evening, hanging his walls with them. Although he knows that Hanouma is already promised to the suitcase porter and trade unionist Abou Serih, one day he reveals his feelings to her and proposes to her. Her rejection, soaked with mockery and ridicule, drives Kenawi further into a rage-drenched obsession for Hanuma. Restored version.
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Detachment (2011)
Tony Kaye
United States
98′
A chronicle of three weeks in the lives of several high school teachers, administrators and students through the eyes of substitute teacher, Henry Barthes. Henry roams from school to school, imparting modes of knowledge, but never staying long enough to form any semblance of sentient attachment.
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The Prince of Nothingwood (2016)
Sonia Kronlund
France
86′
Director Sonia Kronlund accompanies the Afghan director, actor and screenwriter Salim Shaheen in her film Nothingwood. He is a well-known figure on the film scene in his home country, but hardly known abroad. About a hundred kilometers away from Kabul, Salim Shaheen comes to show some of his 110 films and to shoot the 111th in the process.
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Ohne diese Welt (2017)
Nora Fingscheidt
Germany
115′
Argentina in 2016: in a remote region in the north of the country live about 700 Mennonites from Germany as in the 18th century. They speak old German and live from agriculture and cattle breeding. But is it really possible to refuse development?
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Workers (2013)
José Luis Valle
Mexico
122′
Rafael has been a cleaner in the same light bulb factory for thirty years. It is his last day before retirement, and he even buys himself a pair of new shoes for the occasion. But his boss soon takes the wind out of this reticent man’s sails. Although Rafael has been a diligent and reliable worker, as an illegal immigrant to Tijuana from El Salvador he has no right to expect a pension ... Lidia is one of seven people keeping house for a rich Mexican woman in a wheelchair who has dedicated her life to her whippet Princess’ who eats from a golden bowl and sleeps on a silk cushion. Lidia has spent thirty years taking care of the dog and its ailing mistress, day and night. When Lidia’s employee dies and leaves her fortune to her dog nothing much changes for Lidia at first. Then she begins to think about what it means to have a dog as an employer. José-Luis Valles’ film Workers paints an affecting picture of the division of labour in today’s ostensibly egalitarian society. His point of view is political, not polemical, and his camera takes its time to describe scenes not just through actions but above all in certain moods.
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