We the Workers Getting to know the labour activists
What is your first thought when you think of "labour movement"? Scenes of workers in strike, organizations holding banners in front of corporates' or government headquarters? News of workers' leaders being attacked, detained and prosecuted? We know indeed very little about labour movement, workers' organizers' life and daily challenges, apart from some short scenes of their struggles and demands broadcast in the news. “We the Workers”, a documentary documents labour activists in China, their living and working conditions between 2009 and 2015, to tell us more about labour movement in China.
Two organizers, Peng Jiayong and Deng Xiaoming feature in this documentary, through their works, interactions with workers, their colleagues, families and friends, audiences develop some ideas of labour organizers' daily work and the operation of labour movement in China. Assuredly, we would see scenes of workers' training, awareness raising, support to workers' actions, strategy planning and etc. The profound portrayal of Peng Jiayong is rather stunning. In the film or during the labour movement, Peng has been seen as a strong, determined and powerful organizer to support the workers. Yet, he is a human being after all and often shows his sentiment and human nature to his family, friends and even colleagues. For example, he was attacked and hospitalized because of his intervention in a labour dispute. When he left the hospital and took a rest in a hotel room, the interviewer asked him if his family was informed about his injury. He said that his some 80-year-old father would not go online and put a forced smile in saying his wife “had stopped caring about me for a long time”. The loneliness in his voice allows us a rare glimpse of real and vivid life of a labour activist.
On 18 March 2018. the HKCTU and the Department of Applied Social Sciences of City University of Hong Kong held a viewing session of this documentary and invited its producer Zeng Jinyan to meet the audiences. She also shared a similar thought with audience at the Q & A session, namely: the director developed a close relationship with the interviewees during those 5 years and audiences could feel such empathy through the film, to understand the changes of their emotions as the storyline goes. Zeng pointed out that the film neither meant to create some heroic figures or perfect images of labour activists, instead, the production team hoped to create a warm, down-to-earth and fascinating atmosphere, to get audiences stepping into the life of activists. They wanted the audience to experience the events, understand their feelings and realize these are real people.
To organize workers has never been an easy job. Most activists in the labour movement do not do it for media attention. This documentary shows the hardship they face, the effort their put, the common life they lead and hopes the audience would have a better understanding and even develop recognition of labour organizers.