UPFRONT Alternative Take on Globalisation

If strong management stems from open-minded appraisal of new ideas, many in the business community could do well to check out Avi Lewis’ latest film The Take. Scheduled for local release at this year’s upcoming Telecom New Zealand International Film Festival, The Take may be potent omen of where we’re heading under globalisation but it’s not anti-globalisation as such. It’s point Lewis is keen to stress in an interview from his home in Canada.
Yes, he concedes, it is part of growing phenomenon of films challenging the business status quo – and he’s clearly comfortable standing alongside slew of thought-provoking films released since the 1999 Seattle WTO protests and which include Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, last year’s film festival hit The Corporation, and another of this year’s festival debutantes, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.
Where Lewis draws the line is in the terminology, rejecting the term ‘anti-globalisation’ in favour of ‘internationalist’ and pointing out the inbuilt irony that organisations which oppose globalisation are “extraordinarily global” themselves.
Lewis describes The Take as genuine attempt to answer question that he and partner Naomi Klein hear not only from political critics in the course of the globalisation debate but also increasingly from social movements around the world: “We know what you are against – you are good at articulating the critique of this phase of globalisation – but what are you for?”
They were, he says, looking for places in the world where people were trying to come up with organic, local and democratic alternatives to process which increasingly means that decisions that affect communities are made far away from where the effects are felt.
Lewis and Klein’s search led them to Argentina where, in the wake of the country’s spectacular economic meltdown in 2001, unemployed factory workers have been reclaiming their previous workplaces, which are now lying idle, and fight for the right to run the business themselves. telling earlier scene had shown the nation’s wealth being spirited overseas under cover of darkness as offshore owners reclaim their money and leave locals to fend for themselves.
Lewis’ ability to embrace irony runs throughout the film. An impoverished mother complains that her “kids don’t even remember what McDonald’s Happy Meal looks like any more” and he says he was very careful to leave in the film the fact that one of the workers in the auto-parts factory voted for Carlos Menem – the politician who many hold responsible for devastating the local economy.
“We’re not in the business of propagandising or trying to make everything fit particular political ideology,” says Lewis. “Rather, we’re researching places in the world where people are trying to respond to these economic policies which we believe are very damaging.” In Lewis’ view, the simple act of fighting for decent job doesn’t transform people into Maoist revolutionaries. “People live in consumer capitalism and that’s not going to change any time soon. So you see that in many of the new initiatives around the world people are not starting from an ideological perspective and then trying to create some socialist alternative. People are starting from position of some economic desperation and trying creatively to come up with some solutions that will allow them to save their towns from becoming ghost towns, to save their jobs.”
This year’s film festival runs across 15 centres nationwide between July 8 and November 30. Details on www.nzff.co.nz. Take look.

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