Festivals & Awards| Festivals & Awards
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The “star” of “Union” is the charismatic Chris Smalls, a former Amazon employee at its massive Staten Island warehouse, and the leader of a new union movement. We all know that the working conditions of Amazon employees are terrible, in part due to the fact that there is little negotiation on behalf of those forced to work long hours. Amazon has avoided the formation of unions by having such a high turnover of employees that many of the signatures on a petition for a union are invalid, because the employee no longer works at the company. It’s a revolving door system that makes it impossible for workers to fight for what they deserve. Smalls and a team of like-minded activists are doing everything they can to fix this system, working hard on the ground while Jeff Bezos is in space—it’s not accidental that “Union” opens with the Amazon CEO’s journey as far away from his workers as one could possibly go.
Story and Maing’s film is more about union strategy than worker conditions, and it struggles a bit by virtue of its limited approach that keeps it locked in a relatively small time frame and specific place. The fight, and others like it, didn’t start or end here, which gives the film a bit of a snapshot approach that might feel incomplete to some. Having said that, the most interesting aspect of “Union” may be the reminder that these fighters are human too. It’s clear from watching them fight over leadership positions and even meeting times how difficult it can be to bring so many passionate people together for the same cause. It’s almost as hard as going to space.
Finally, there’s the somewhat divisive “Skywalkers: A Love Story,”A film with impossible, striking visuals that I have never seen before but a story which feels too manufactured for me and even dangerous. I don’t need my films, documentaries or otherwise, to take a moral high ground, but “Skywalkers” opens that door by casually mentioning that dozens of people are killed or injured every year doing what happens in this film, and then completely brushes off the fact that this “love story” is about two influencers who have clearly encouraged their followers to trace their footsteps merely by making it look as thrilling and unforgettable as they do. Even if one gets past that ick factor as quickly as the filmmakers seem to do, there’s a hyper-stylized and even scripted nature to “Skywalkers” that makes it all feel a bit too much like a commercial. An ad that promotes something insane.