Editor’s Note: Labour
A few weeks back, I got into an argument about Marxism. Sitting on a park bench and enjoying the first warm evening of summer, the conversation with my friend turned to the state of capitalism. “Do you really think all this is going to disappear?” he asked, gesturing to the omnipresent free market. No, I replied, but giving up on an idea of a better world didn’t seem like a viable option, either. The debate, fuelled by the fresh air and more than one beer, culminated in my charge that his point of view—an unequivocal dismissal of Karl Marx’s thinkings—amounted to privileged acquiescence. The world was working for him, so why dream of changing it?
The next morning—after sending off an email about the modern union movement to my companion, clearly not my comrade, from the night prior—I began to think about my own privilege. A privilege that’s embodied in the action of drinking in a park mid-week and having the luxury to talk about labour by being able to take a break from it. Or, more pertinently, the privilege that allows me, and the rest of the cléo cohort, to work on a feminist film journal for free.
No one at cléo is paid. (This is, however, the first issue where we have been able to financially compensate our writers; a sum, I should note, that is not enough to truly recognize their efforts and work.) The time that’s put into making this journal a reality is measured in passion, friendship, and a fundamental belief that feminism is thriving—in cinema and in the wider world. And, most of all, that feminism can alter the world we know for the better. It might sounds like a wild dream, but to dismiss it and give up, as I discovered on that park bench, isn’t going to get us anywhere. Besides, in an economy where every second is monetized, debt among youth is steadily growing, and work has become synonymous with life, dreaming can also be radical. Because when dreaming grows into discussion and action, it can turn into revolution.
In this issue, our writers didn’t just dream, but carefully worked through many aspects of labour on film. Jutta Sarhimaa speaks to director Clio Barnard about social critiques of contemporary Britain in The Selfish Giant (2013) and submissions editor Mallory Andrews interviews legendary filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin about her work as a documentary activist for First Nations rights. Esther Berry looks at the global beauty trade through the lens of Indian hair sellers in Raffaele Brunetti and Marco Leopardi’s Hair India (2008); Sophie Mayer looks at the use of time in Sophie Hyde’s 52 Tuesdays, Barbara Kopple’s Harlan County, USA, and Sally Potter’s Rage; Adam Nayman examines the late Michael Glawogger’s take on sex work in Whores’ Glory (2011); and Jemma Desai breaks down the work of female friendship in Josephine Decker’s Butter on the Latch (2013). I talk about James Gray’s The Immigrant (2013) and the role of work in the American dream, and managing editor Julia Cooper digs into Arnold Schwarzenegger and motherhood in Ivan Reitman’s Junior (1994). Rounding off the issue is our first ever roundtable, where writers Zeba Blay and Fariha Róisín and actor Deragh Campbell discuss the politics and comedy of Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child (2014).
Perhaps, then, cléo is something of a park bench. And if we keep dreaming, keep thinking, and keep writing, the bench could very well turn into a platform that demands to be heard.
– Kiva Reardon
Voice(s) of the People: An Interview with Alanis Obomsawinmallory andrews
Shear Work: The Global Labour Trade in Hair Indiaesther r. berry