AMERICAN UNION

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TYPE
: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Production

LOGLINE

In post-industrial Alabama, a group of workers fights to unionize Amazon while nearby coal miners endure a bitter strike to save their jobs.

SYNOPSIS

In post-industrial Alabama, a group of workers fights to unionize Amazon while nearby coal miners endure a bitter strike to save their jobs. The film, AMERICAN UNION, is a story of survival in the heart of working America.

ARTISTIC STATEMENT

AMERICAN UNION aims to show people what I have witnessed on the ground. The film is character-based, using an observational documentary style to reflect the unique stories of the workers living through these historical events under extreme pressure. This is not a strictly "fly on the wall" documentary. On occasion, while following a character, I will clarify a point or converse with them from behind the camera. This form of participatory documentary will break the "4th wall" and bring the audience closer to the immediacy of the story and filmmaking process. The imagery, music, and sound must capture the differences in time and space of organizing against a coal operator in Brookwood, representing traditional labor relations and a new amazon warehouse in Bessemer, who has never had a union, reflecting the wide range of backgrounds of those involved. The film will explore how these two tales are similar and different. Based on a year of building relationships with our main characters, we will go into their private lives to discover the effects of the labor battle on them and their loved ones. We will explore how coal miners' wives step up and how some of the miners cope without the jobs they identify so closely with. We will capture vigilante responses on and off the picket lines when miners, scabs, and police snap. We will see the toll that organizing takes on a worker who is already exhausted from 10-hour shifts at amazon. Alongside, the broader mise-en-scène of Alabama is captured, including its old and new forms of work, its strip malls, BBQ joints, small-town churches, and rolling forest land. Generally, we are avoiding traditional talking head interviews, which pull characters out of the action, and do not reflect the spontaneity and tone of the story. Instead, handheld footage will take us deep into the characters' lives and the specific worlds they inhabit. Beyond capturing the events, I want to amplify the stories and lived experiences of the main characters. We will use archival footage from mobile phones selectively in the film to punctuate the story's immediacy. Alongside, in locked-off shots, the broader mise-en-scène of Alabama will be captured - including its strip malls, BBQ joints, small-town churches, rolling forest land, and deep cave-like mines.

KEY CREW

Brett Wallace - Director / Cinematographer
Brett Wallace is an award-winning New York-based artist and filmmaker exploring work, technology, and the greater economy. He is best known for documentary film and installation projects which explore the subjects and territories of labor in the 21st century. His most recent short film, Truckers, a story about truck driving mavericks on the open road, was screened at the Socially Relevant Film Festival. The film was also exhibited in “The Question of Intelligence: AI and the Future of Humanity” at the Parsons School of Design and was a finalist for the 2020 Lumen Prize in moving image. Recent reviews of his work include The New York Times, Brooklyn Rail, Art in America, ARTnews, Artnet, Artslant, Hyperallergic, and BmoreArt. Brett holds a BFA for the University of Massachusetts - Amherst, an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art, and is an alumnus of the Harvard Business School.

Geoff Arbourne - Producer
Geoff Arbourne is an Emmy award-winning producer and founder of Inside Out Films. Geoff started out by producing three short films in South Africa, Israel and Mozambique. One of which was released on the Guardian website and attracted over 1 million views in the first 24 hours. He is a graduate of EAVE, Sundance Institute Fellow recipient, and producer of the award-winning documentary FOREVER PURE - directed by Maya Zinshtein. His second feature documentary, AFRICAN APOCALYPSE, featuring the poet-activist Femi Nylander had its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival and was supported by BFI Doc Society and BBC Arts. Geoff is currently in production with his third feature documentary, XENOS aka MEN IN THE SUN, directed by the award-winning Palestinian director Mahdi Fleifel. In 2019, Geoff was selected for the European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs (EAVE) programme to develop a fiction TV series with former British diplomat Carne Ross called THE COUNCIL. A procedural series set within the little known, yet vivid, international world of one of the globe's most significant institutions - the United Nations. Geoff is producing the series with Robyn Slovo (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, McMafia). Geoff is also currently working as an Executive Producer on two feature documentaries in post production. The first, LONDON RECRUITS, is directed by Welsh filmmaker Gordon Main and aims for a release in the summer of 2022. And secondly, BLINDSPOT, directed by Palestinian filmmaker Ali Al-Arian and written by David Riker, aims for a release in early 2023.

Ben Evans James - Writer
Ben’s films have premiered at major international festivals including Visions du Réel, Edinburgh International Film Festival and Sheffield Doc Fest and screened at galleries including MoMA New York, Design Museum London and HKW Berlin. He is the recipient of prizes and funds from Arts Council England, Canada Research Council (Film), The Elephant Trust, The British Library, UK Research & Innovation and the British Council (Film), Medienboard Berlin and Creative Europe. He is the Head of Programming for Film at transmediale festival in Berlin. Originally founded out of Berlinale, transmediale celebrates its 30th year in 2022. He is currently completing his PhD in documentary film studies under film academic Dara Waldron. Selected Film Festival Screenings Include: Visions du Réel (Switzerland), Doc Fortnight (MoMA New York), Edinburgh International Film Festival (UK), Sheffield Doc Fest (UK), transmediale Berlin (Germany), Barcelona International Film Festival (Spain), Astra Film Festival (Romania), Dharamshala International Film Festival (Nepal), Abandon Normal Devices (UK), Beldocs (Serbia), IMPAKT Festival (Netherlands), Athens Film Festival (US), Ben is based between Canada and Berlin.

 

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