Videos

New Film! “Clean In: How Hotel Workers Fought For a Union—And Won”

What happens when the working mothers employed as housekeepers at a Harvard-owned hotel decide to “lean in” for higher wages and better working conditions? ¿Puede la solidaridad femenina unir a las clases?

In celebration of International Women’s Day, and in solidarity with today’s Women’s Strike, The Nation Magazine has released my long-in-the-making collaboration with Sarah Leonard about a group of immigrant working mothers who sought to unionize their Harvard-owned workplace – and in doing so asked Harvard’s first female president & Sheryl Sandberg “which side are you on?”

Their story shows us what a “feminism for the 99%” might look like.

CLEAN IN is a 21min video essay featuring music by bilingual political punk band Downtown Boys and Puerto Rican shoegaze band Un.Real. It’s a companion piece to Sarah’s long-form essay, Housekeepers Versus Harvard: Feminism for the Age of Trump.

Regardless of whether or not you are striking today, I hope you might find some time to read Sarah’s essay and watch CLEAN IN.

Spoiler alert: unlike 99% of labor stories, this piece has a happy ending! It’s a genuinely inspiring tale of how creative organizing and cross-class solidarity can achieve real, concrete, material (and nonmaterial) improvements in the lives of working people.

Happy International Women’s Day!
¡Feliz Día Internacional de la Mujer!

PS: This project emerged out of a socialist feminist reading group which has deeply informed how I think about both feminism and the economy. In honor of today’s strike, members of that group have collaborated on A Women’s Strike Syllabus. Check it out!

The School Closure Playbook

Yesterday Jacobin Magazine published “The School Closure Playbook,” a film essay I directed about Chicago’s decision to shut down forty-nine public schools in 2013:

This piece is adapted from two essays from Jacobin’sClass Action” handbook, Kenzo Shibata’s “Disaster Capitalism, Chicago Style” and Joanne Barkan’s “How Mega-Foundations Threaten Public Education.” It features original cinematography by Katrina Ohstrom; music by Rob Warmowski of the San Andreas Fault; and video journalism by Kai-Duc Luong, Heather Stone, and John Sheehan. This project also owes a tremendous debt to BBC filmmaker Adam Curtis, in ways which will be obvious to anyone familiar with his work (and that saying about imitation and flattery).

As I write this, Chicago is about an hour away from deciding whether to re-elect mayor Rahm Emanuel. If he receives less than 50% of the vote in today’s election, there will be a run-off in April. Responsible for appointing both the CEO and school board, Emanuel exercises enormous control over the city’s public schools. His policies of school closures and privatization have had devastating effects on Chicago’s children, yet are being replicated in districts around the country.

This is perhaps the most depressing film I have ever worked on, but also the most hopeful. The soul-crushing hours spent listening to people like Eli Broad and Milton Friedman were more than matched by the inspiration of watching speeches by people like Karen Lewis, Asean Johnson (seriously, watch this!), and Jitu Brown. They represent just a few of the many parents, teachers, students and community members who are working tirelessly around the country, at the genuine grassroots, to bring democracy and justice to public education.

This project showed me that there are real heroes in America today. You may not often hear about them in the media, but you could find them outside in the cold today, knocking on doors in Chicago to get out the vote for an #ElectedBoardNow. And last week you could find them occupying absentee, Christie-appointed superintendent Cami Anderson’s offices in Newark, NJ to demand local control of their schools.

If you are interested in learning more, joining forces, or perhaps sharing some of that green stuff that gets posters printed, GOTV vans filled with gas, and films made, here are some resources:

Watch MONICA: THE MINI-SERIES

Monica: The Mini-Series imagines Monica Lewinsky’s life in 2001 – when she was 27 and living in New York City.

Directed by my talented friend Doron Max Hagay & perfectly cast, Monica is a compassionate exploration of a woman sacrificed to our media’s pathetic obsession with sex, trying to make a life for herself in a society that gleefully condemns a young woman while forgiving and even victimizing arguably the most powerful man in the world at the time. Sympathetic & hilarious — and totally free on the internet — do not miss Monica.

New Adam Curtis: Bitter Lake

I have got hold of the unedited rushes of almost everything the BBC has ever shot in Afghanistan. It is thousands of hours – some of it is very dull, but large parts of it are extraordinary. Shots that record amazing moments, but also others that are touching, funny and sometimes very odd.

These complicated, fragmentary and emotional images evoke the chaos of real experience. And out of them i have tried to build a different and more emotional way of depicting what really happened in Afghanistan.