Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Laura Coppens

Wenner-Gren is proud to present the following blog post and trailer from Laura Coppens who in 2018 received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship to aid filming on Taste of Hope.

Taste of Hope I Official Trailer from Srikandi Productions on Vimeo.

Taste of Hope

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

‘Taste of Hope’ is a feature-length observational film and tells the fascinating and complex story of a workers’ cooperative in the small town of Gémenos. The film aims to convey how precarious workers are making sense of economic uncertainty in the midst of the ongoing crisis of capitalism by cultivating hope and desires for a potentially better future. Where idealism clashes with harsh reality, I observed the factory workers as they faced inevitable challenges. In 2010, Unilever announced the closing of the profitable Fralib tea processing and packaging plant in the South of France. After 1336 days of resistance, the workers celebrated their victory against the giant multinational and became owners of the factory. Now, with the take-over of the company and production under workers’ control, a new struggle has begun. Can this alternative project be viable within an oversaturated, highly competitive market? For two years, I accompanied the workers in their daily struggles. Between general assemblies, cash-flow problems and tea tastings with potential clients, deception, and conflict emerge. Ultimately, the documentary poses the question: How do we need to work today so we might live in a better world tomorrow?

‘Taste of Hope’ premiered at the Visions du Réel film festival in April in 2019 and won two awards: the Jury Price of the SSA/ SUISSIMAGE and the Zonta Award for the most promising female filmmaker to watch out for. After one year of successful festival run, the film continues to be screened in mainstream and ethnographic film festivals all over the world.

The film emerged from my ethnographic research about different manifestations of what can be called ‘economies of hope.’ The Postdoctoral Fellowship for 2018-2019 allowed me to work on the editing and post-production of the film and to explore visual modalities for telling the tale of a hopeful worker’s struggle. ‘Taste of Hope’ builds on recent documentaries that address the resurged phenonemon of autogestion in the South of Europe, such as Next Stop Utopia (2005) in Greece and The Nothing Factory (2017) in Portugal. However, both these films focus on the actual strike and factory occupation and do not show the daily life under worker’s control. I have used the film medium as a research method to explore and capture the processes and social interactions through which political subjects come into being affectively and hope is materialized. Through audio and images, I aim at conveying the hopes and imaginations of the workers and demonstrate how affect opens up new emancipatory possibilities in the domain of workers’ self-management.

As I further show in the film, the hope invested in a workers’ economy is not only an aspiration but also consists of a tangible dimension, implying that the political and economic future possibilities inherent in workers’ control projects are also always realized in the present. This sphere of social and political activity can be described as a workers’ economy of hope in which becoming knowledgeable about the economy and autogestion, in addition to building and maintaining solidarity networks as well as heightening awareness of ecological and democratic modes of production, are important sites in which individual and collective hopes are materialized. Thus, hope is produced and entailed in a wide range of workers’ knowledge practices like work and labor processes or product development, among others. Self-managed factories are sites of political struggle that must continually be enacted. It is precisely this process of enactment on a daily basis, the conceptualization of autogestion as a social practice and political activity that is the focus of my film.

Past and scheduled Screenings (selection):

  • Visions du Réel, Nyon (world premiere) | Winner Prix du Jury SSA/ SUISSIMAGE & Prix ZONTA
  • Kaleidoskop Film Festival, Vienna
  • Open City Documentary Festival, London
  • DokuBaku International Documentary Film Festival, Baku | Winner Audience Award
  • Margaret Mead Film Festival, NYC | Nominated for the Margaret Mead Filmmakers Award
  • DOK Leipzig International Documentary Film Festival, Leipzig |Nominated for the Healthy Workplace Award
  • Duisburger Filmwoche, Duisburg
  • Ethnographic Film Days, Bremen
  • FIPADOC, Biarritz | Nominated for the Impact Award
  • Soluthurner Filmtage, Solothurn
  • DocPoint Helsinki
  • Festival Millenium, Brussels
  • Dokfilmwoche Hamburg
  • ”Between Women Filmmakers” Caravan/ Cairo International Women’s Film Festival, Bilbao
  • International Documentary Film Festival ELBE DOCK | Competition

Reviews (selection):

“Unobtrusive and humane, ‘Taste of Hope’ is reminiscent of American documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman’s studies of institutional cultures and workplaces. Proper to her training as a social anthropologist, director Laura Coppens is keenly sensitive to place and people. This skill for observation comes through in the film’s treatment of the factory as a unique environment, as well as its attention to daily rhythms and the interpersonal dynamics of people.”

– Stephani Lam, Film and Visual Studies, Harvard University

“Instead of making grand gestures or political statements, the filmmaker works with the camera and with a thoughtful editing in order to understand how to weave together new possibilities of communal existence. The result is a superbly crafted observational exercise. A little manual of self-defense and resistance in the face of a neoliberalism that wishes for workers to keep their heads down. A taste of hope indeed.

– Giona A. Nazarro, programmer and film critic

“The fact that the filmmaker is allowed to be present when delicate topics are discussed is a testament to the relationship of trust that she has built up during the two years of shooting. The example of ScopTI shows how existence in a market economy demands compromises – which is not new, but it is always important to discuss together. After all, the wishful thinking about how workers’ self-managed companies should function cannot be reflected often enough under real circumstances, which are very different depending on the industry, size etc. ‘Taste of Hope’ is quite well suited to contribute to a solidarity exchange in movements and networks of collective economies.”

– Elisabeth Voss, economist and publicist

“Employee-owned business are the future. There have been too many narratives about people losing jobs and security lately, and this is extremely important to acknowledge. But we also need stories that instill hope, that show that there are other options available. ‘Taste of Hope’ is an incredibly smart film, that it doesn’t only concentrate on the force of spirit that led the ScopTI employees to become their own bosses: it also asks ‘what’s next?.’ Coppens arrived to film the factory when the rush of resistance had already worn off, and the more mundane, but crucial challenges started adding layers to the new labor system at place. This way, ‘Taste of Hope’ became a more complex, thought-provoking case study of workers reclaiming their agency, with emphasis on the essential practical side of things. Necessary viewing for those interested in how labor relationships will evolve in the future, with a delightful field trip to a tea-making factory as a bonus.”

– Katya Kazbek, Editor-in-chief supamodu.com

Link to website: https://tasteofhope-film.com

 

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