7 Minutes: 11 workers facing a dilemma
by Vittoria Scarpa
- What are we willing to do for work? This is what Michele Placido explores in his latest film, which was shown at the Rome Film Fest. An Italian-French-Swiss co-production based on a true story
In 2012 in Yssingeaux, France, a dozen or so workers were called upon to decide the fate of a factory that had just been taken over by a textile multinational. To keep their jobs, the workers had to give up seven minutes (out of the 15 they had) for their daily lunch break. The decision was put to a vote. Actor/director Michele Placido brings this true story to Latina and Italy, in 7 Minutes [+see also:
interview: Michele Placido
film profile] (shown in the Official Selection of the 11th Rome Film), a passionate portrait of 11 women held to ransom, a story of rights to be fought for tooth and nail, but also a portrayal of the world of work today, which extends far beyond the confines of a factory. Because to some extent, we can all identify with the dilemma faced by these women: what are we willing to do for work?
Seven minutes don’t sound like a lot, compared with the prospect of being fired. This is the opinion of the workers on the factory committee who must vote for or against this new condition, for themselves and on the behalf of their 300 colleagues who are all on tenterhooks waiting to find out if they’ll still have a job the next day or not. All of them share the same opinion, except one. And so whilst the executives (one of whom is played by Placido) slyly celebrate the company merger on the top floors, down below a heated debate is unfolding on the reasons for and against. Among them are a couple of ‘old people’, a pregnant woman, immigrants, a mother whose husband is unemployed, a girl for whom this is her first job… each has their own story, their own needs, and their own source of desperation.
Placido (the director of Romanzo criminale [+see also:
interview: Michele Placido
film profile] and Angels of Evil [+see also:
film profile], among many others) constructs the film like a sort of psychological thriller, full of suspense and dramatic turns of events: the outcome of the votes changes constantly. It’s a race against time (the protagonists have just a few hours to make their decision) on a question of time (the notorious seven minutes) in which there is no right or wrong, just the courage to change things. Because if thirty years previously the same factory granted its workers a 45-minute lunch break, before dropping this down to 30 minutes, then 15, and now wants to reduce it to eight… what will the workers have to give up next?
The cast of actresses is outstanding, and each and every one is worth mentioning: Ottavia Piccolo, Ambra Angiolini, Cristiana Capotondi, singers Fiorella Mannoia and Maria Nazionale, Violante Placido, French actress Clemence Poesy, Swiss actress Sabine Timoteo, Erika D’Ambrosio, Malian actress Balkissa Maiga, Luisa Cattaneo, and French actress Anne Consigny in the role of the boisterous director of the multinational. “I used the faces of the actresses like a landscape”, explained Placido, “pointing the camera – I used three, sometimes four – at those who were listening, capturing their dread, rather than at those doing the talking”.
The divide between Italian and foreign workers (“You’re starting to know fear only now”, says the African worker played by Maiga, “I use one hand to eat and the other to work”), the lack of trust in those who represent us (the spokesperson is suspected of double-dealing) and the fight for rights secured by generations before us (because young people don’t even know what rights are), are also topics that are addressed in this film on human dignity and work; a strong, moving, and universal film.
Based on the play of the same name by Stefano Massini(his Lehman Trilogy is set to be brought to the stage in London by Sam Mendes), 7 Minutes is an Italian-French-Swiss co-production by Goldenart with Rai Cinema, Manny Films and Ventura Film. After Rome, the film will hit the Tokyo Film Festival, and will be released in Italy on 3 November by Koch Media, before being released in Switzerland on 19 November, and then in France.
(Translated from Italian)