The walls of ITAS, the last remaining co-operative factory in post-socialist Croatia, are lined with reminders of faded glories. A framed photo of Josip Broz Tito, former president of Yugoslavia, watches over a sprawling mural commemorating ITAS’s unique victory in 2005: facing a government plan for privatisation, the employees successfully occupied the factory and won a court case to continue running the plant as a worker-owned enterprise.
Beginning in 2015 and shot over the course of five years, Srdjan Kovačević’s rigorous, riveting documentary observes the troubled waters that follow this triumph. Having led the 2005 mutiny, Dragutin Varga is now the head of the factory’s union, and his steadfast idealism over ITAS’s future represents the generational divide among the workers. Dissatisfied with continuous delays in salary payments, the younger workmen are doubtful of the plant’s current organisational structure. Meanwhile, the middle-aged and older employees, who make up the majority of the workforce, still hold dear the socialist values inherited from Yugoslavia’s halcyon days.
Far from favouring one position over another, Kovačević’s documentary threads together heated arguments – either between Varga and the directorial board or among the workers themselves – to illustrate an unsolvable state of stagnancy. Lost among these gripping scenes of fervid discourse, however, is a more detailed examination of the management missteps as well as larger global issues that have driven ITAS to a financial crisis. Furthermore, by establishing a solidarity agreement where all the featured subjects have a share of the film’s profit, Factory to the Workers is a rare and commendable example of a documentary that strives to be as radical as its subject.
Still, when the chorus of justified grievances ends in forlorn silence, and Varga embarks on a hunger strike for the sake of his union, a scene where he looks out of a window and into the unknown paints a portrait of a modern-day Don Quixote, tilting at impossible windmills.
Source : The Guardian