Saturday, March 5, 2011

Made in Dagenham (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
 Made in Dagenham

"Made in Dagenham" is a colorful overview of the Dagenham strike in the 1960s.

The machinists of Dagenham went on strike in 1968, pushing for equal pay. The entire group of women shut down their factory work and brought the Ford plant to a halt. Through their efforts, equal pay was largely standardized in factories. And, not least, women workers were given the economic respect they deserve.

The film portrays its events in a breezy, effortless and accessible fashion. The women are shown going to work on brightly colored bikes under a gray sky. They zoom down quaint English roads as the smoke-stacked Ford Motor   factory looms in the distance. Despite the anticipated gloom it is a festive scene. A bit like George Orwell as envisioned by The Beatles. Industrial drear has never been so colorful. These beehived machinists tumble into work, their eyes excited, their talk frothy and their throats bubbling with earthy laughter. In contrast with the gray walls and the utilitarian green sewing machines, these workers pop like fireworks contained in Fiestaware cups. Any male oppression under the weight of these masculine metal cars doesn't stand a chance. With Singer machines that look like needle-nosed dragonflies poised to attack, these women plot to even the balance sheet. The upholstery seat covers  that they sew together are scarlet gauntlets for revolution.

Sally Hawkins ("Never Let Me Go") plays Rita, who has more spunk in sarcasm than Norma Rae and and as much allure as Betty Draper in "Mad Men". Rita  never backs down, using subtle wiles as her weapons and still mothering all the time, under the watch of a youngish lug of a passive husband (Daniel Mays).

The film shows just how much women work. Domestic work is balanced with the hum of the factory and every person makes it appear effortless and fun, with time to give January Jones a run for her money.

The men are clueless, monotone drones c
ompared to these vivacious, earthy and progressive women. After all, they were changing the world, pushing equality on all  levels, the social as well as the economic.

Veteran actor Bob Hoskins fares the best in his role as Albert, the foreman. He becomes a grandfather for the group. Not that they need one.

As the machinists race to the factory, the only color under a slate sky they are fierce flowers. Then, as the reggae sound of Desmond Dekker is heard, the bright shoots transform with the music into Ska warriors, at one in solidarity and the pulse of change.

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