Drifters and Borinage: From the Filmic Subject to the Historical Subject

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 6:00 PM
Room: Booth 57
Oral Presentation
Paulo MENEZES , Sociology, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
This communication analyzes two important films in the history of sociological films:  Drifters (1929) from John Grierson and Misère au Borinage(1933) from Joris Ivens. The first one show the herring fishing out of the coast of England, in the North Sea, as a struggle between men and boats against the difficulties of the rough sea on the way to find and catch the herring shoals. The second one show the very arid and difficult  life of the Belgian miners of Borinage, focusing in their hard conditions of work that has lead to a major strike in 1933, after the worldwide crisis of 1929 in the USA.

Drifters show a very interesting process of overcoming the old artisanal fishing work by the introduction of the new methods from the industrial revolution by changing the animal driving force for the power of steam in an harmonic process but questioning the "natural" approach of a film like Nanook of the North. This new way of labor also makes this process acquire international dimensions showing the British Empire now as a huge commercial and industrial force. Borinage show that against the power of capitalism, that in the process of reproduction of capital also reproduces the miners in the worst living conditions despite his arduous work, the only solution is the organized working class that struggles against them with their most important weapon: stop using the force of labor and consequently stop making goods and profits.

So, if Drifters is remarkable as the first documental film in history to put the working class in the central place as a film subject, Borinage is the first one to show the working class in the process to become an historical subject to change the world, like fiction has already made in Eisenstein’s Potenkim (1925).