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1 review, 2 user ratings

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Take, The (2004)
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by Chris Parry

"When the money runs out, the story had better have ended..."
3 stars

The greatest documentaries always seem to involve a little luck during the production process. Sometimes fantastic events unfurl just as the cameras are switched on, or perhaps the filmmaker lucks out by discovering a great contact who is prepared to spill the beans where none have spileld before. But then there are the other documentaries, where a great story is gearing up with characters and tragedy and the human spirit writ large.... but the money doesn't last long enough to keep the cameras rolling to the end. The Take is a great doco in the making, but Canadian filmmaker/journalists Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein simply don't last the distance, wrapping up the story they started with a "six months later" epilogue that tells us about events that we should have, by rights, seen for ourselves. It's a shame, because the first half of the flick is great stuff... it's just a pity that there's no second half; even more of a pity when you realize that the filmmakers could have put their hand in their own pockets and funded the thing for as long as it took, if they really cared about making a good film.

Argentina is what you might call the living proof that globalization doesn't work. At least not for everyone. Over the last decade, Argentinian President Carlos Menem managed to turn a thriving economy into an economic wasteland by selling off every public asset, altering the laws so they favored business owners over workers, and sucking the coffers dry by giving corporate welfare to his friends and associates. Across the country, factories lay dormant, rusting and empty as the former employees scrounged through garbage dumps and waited in vain for the wages they were owed. But eventually, when it became clear that the courts, government and police weren't about to help their plight, the workers got organized. Their catchcry was simple - occupy, resist, produce.

The workers began to break in to the factories; not for the purpose of theft or vandalism, but instead to renew them. They would occupy the facilities, clean them up, repair broken equipment, bust out the sleeping bags, and simply refuse to leave from that point on. As the owners of the factories saw no threat in this, they made only token efforts to remove the workers, which gave the squatters a chance to not only get the factories back in working order, but also begin producing again. The employees streamed back, the orders came in, the product rolled out and, surprise surprise, with management and ownership nowhere to be seen, the companies actually began to run a profit.

To the outsider, this would seem to be a great thing. Less unemployed people means less money spent by the government keeping them alive, and more healthy businesses means more exports, lower prices and more taxes paid... but unfortunately these days such pursuits are not the goal of our leaders of industry. The owners now want their factories back, the politicans get more money from the rich than the poor, so they're happy to side with the owners, and the poor old workers find themselves sucking down tear gas and - again - losing their jobs.

Admittedly, it's not generally accepted behavior to just seize the property of others and use it for your own needs, but when the owner of said property has declared bankruptcy owing the workers millions, why should former employees not receive the keys to building? And shouldn't the needs of the people be more important to the leadership of the land than a handful of wealthy movers and shakers who have already proved they don't have the ability to run the show?

These are the questions that limousine liberals Ari Lewis and Naomi Klein put forth, while making sure to include a lot of themselves, and not missing a chance to sell themselves as front line journalists. Ms Klein certainly does know a thing or two about globalization, but it's tough to sell yourself as a rugged journalist when you're running through teargas in a nice new leather jacket that clearly cost more than most of these people have earned in the last year, yakking into a cellphone and missing only a Starbucks and an Escalade to pull off the total Yuppie on holiday role.

A little rough on Ms Klein and her director hubby? Yeah, maybe, especially considering I'm the sort that would be considered her target audience., but I honestly don't have time for people who have tons of cash, going to the government for the funding for a film, and then packing things up when the free money runs out, even though the story is far from over.

And the story is a good one. When auto parts manufacturers, seamstresses, tractor builders and tile cutters begin working together, doign business with each other, and instituting an 'everyone gets paid the same wage' rule, you begin to see that while communism might be an untenable extreme, unionism could stretch to something far beyond the mere protection of the worker, to a world where the workers need nobody but themselves to work, produce, and earn a profit. The people behind the movement are not activists or union organizers; they're just average Joe's who refuse to lie down and have the course of their lives be dictated to them by a bankruptcy trustee.

Unfortunately, while The Take tells an important story, it tells it in the kind of way you'd expect to see on TV, perhaps on PBS or the CBC. As a feature film, it's weak where it really should be strongest - the story - mostly because the climax to the story told happens entirely off-camera. They got the concept right, they got the subjects right, but they got the film all wrong.

And it's a damn shame, because when regular Americans see what their economic influence is doing to nations around the world, they tend to be shocked, to the point of even doing something about it. But upon watching The Take, I can't imagine anyone will be pushed to really do anything more than return the video to the store and maybe make a sandwich.

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originally posted: 12/12/04 21:51:00
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User Comments

9/18/07 wolf chris parry obviously didn't get it 5 stars
9/26/05 a. kurlovs the idea is good, but the execution could be better. 4 stars
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  12-Nov-2004 (NR)
  DVD: 21-Feb-2006



Directed by
  Avi Lewis

Written by
  Naomi Klein


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