Labor Films and Film Festivals

Labor Film Database and Guide

Many books and articles discuss labor and working class films, and many of these films, old and current can be found in various formats. Two good starting points for finding lists and summaries of labor films are the Labor Film Database, as well as Tom Zaniello’s excellent guide, which includes write-ups and related references.

  • The Labor Film Database
  • Zaniello, Tom. Working Stiffs, Union Maids, Reds, and Riffraff: An Expanded Guide to Films about Labor. Ithaca: ILR, 2003.

Film Festivals

The Pioneer Valley Labor Film Festival becomes the latest in a collection of labor-focused film festivals that take place nationally and internationally. In recognition of the strong interest in quality films about the struggles of working people and their organizations, labor film festival organizers have come together annually at the Conference of Labor Film Organizers. In 2015 the Conference sponsored the 3rd Annual Global Labor Film Festival; on May 1, International Workers Day, ten cities around the world showed several labor films, including two we feature in our film festival this month—Blood Fruit and Pride.

Canadian Labour Film Festival

The Canadian Labour Film Festival (CLiFF), was first held in 2009 across nine provinces and three territories of Canada. Since then it has moved around various venues in Toronto, Ontario. The festival’s 2016 iteration is being held this November, and will feature short films.

Brazilian International Labour Film Festival

Operating since 2006, the Brazilian International Labour Film Festival (Mostra CineTrabalho in Portuguese) is a program of São Paolo State University. In 2016, the festival will take place on selected dates during the first and last weeks of May. Up to three short films may be selected to receive the BILFF’s “Workers of the World Award,” bestowed upon films “that present an innovative approach to issues concerning the world of labour.”

DC Laborfest

DC Laborfest is a month-long labor arts festival presented in various locations around the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. The 2015 program included labor history and public art tours by bike, bus, and foot, a Labor History Wikipedia “edit-a-thon”, music concerts, film screenings, and unique events including a Mother Jones wreath laying.

Reel Work Labor Film Festival (Central California)

The 2016 Reel Work Labor Film Festival is being presented in the last week of April and first week of May in the Santa Cruz, California, metropolitan area. This year’s program includes a diverse array films from around the world of work, as well as including entries with subjects as diverse as the U.S. drone programs and federal law enforcement’s use of violence during the 1993 Waco, Texas, siege of the Branch Davidian compound.

Workers Unite! Film Festival (New York City)

Workers Unite! is a film festival held in New York City in May. This year, the festival is accepting film submissions in 5 categories: Narrative Features, Narrative Shorts, Documentary Features, Documentary Shorts, and Films From The Front Line. It is also hosting a “Working Lives” screenplay competition, an “open screenplay competition for stories about working people and their lives.”

Construir Cine (Buenos Aires)

Construir Cine boasts the honor of being “the only film festival in Argentina about work and labor.” It is presented as a program of the educational program of the Argentinian Construction Workers’ Union, which also hosts CONSTRUIR TV, the union’s television network.

Mayworks Festival of Working People (Toronto)

Founded in 1986, Mayworks Festival of Working People and the Arts calls itself “a multi-disciplinary arts festival that celebrates working class culture.” Its 2016 program includes first run films shot around and about Toronto, dealing with subjects including the city’s working-class queer culture and the contemporary struggles of taxi drivers against the Uber corporation.