D.C. Labor Film Fest: A Tribute to the Working Class

As the credits started rolling at the end of the movie “Stop-Loss,” people remained seated; grappling with how soldiers face the issue of involuntary extension of active duty.

“This was an excellent movie, but also very upsetting when you realize that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are part of the reason we are in this financial crisis,” said Beverly Holton, who works in the media department of the AFL-CIO. “The war is not about the American people. We went over there under false pretenses, and our military has paid a tremendous price.” Holton said the movie gives people a better understanding of stop loss. “Stop-Loss” was one of several movies shown during the recent D.C. Labor Film Fest, one of the few film festivals that highlight the life of workers.

Chris Garlock, director of the D.C. Labor Film Fest and a coordinator for Metropolitan Washington Council, helped to launch the first festival in 2001, along with his father and Anthony Mazzocchi.

“The labor film fest originated in Rochester, N.Y., but Tony, who strongly believed in the role of culture and the arts in the labor movement, brought it to D.C,” Garlock said. The first one in 2001 was such a success that the festival became an annual event, he added. The festival shows all genres of films, from documentaries to romantic comedies, as long as they capture what it is like to be a worker. “My dad and I are always looking for films about work and workers,” Garlock explained. “There’s not a particular formula we use to pick them out. We know it when we see it.”

The first goal is to entertain, but he also wants movies that will make people think. “Art can really be a powerful organizing tool,” he said. Other movies in this year’s festival included “Kabluey,” which is about a corporate mascot. “Man Push Cart” is about a vendor who is trying to take care of his son and make a better life for himself. This year’s lineup featured about 15 movies, including the film festival’s favorite, “Office Space.”