Working people have borne the brunt of the current economic crisis. None more so than workers of color.
The plight of workers at Janesville’s GM plant, including two African-American women, is the subject of “As Goes Janesville,” a documentary set to premiere locally as part of the Milwaukee Film Festival on Saturday, October 6 at 5 p.m., at the Oriental Theatre, 2230 N. Farwell Avenue. It’s a movie worth watching, and it should spur much discussion in Milwaukee’s beleaguered central city.
The documentary follows the lives of three laid-off autoworkers, including two African- Americans who worked at Janesville’s GM plant, Angie Hodges and Gayle Listenbee. These two women are forced to make difficult choices about their own health, caring for their children, and their economic future as they try to find their way after the plant closes.
With six years until retirement, Angie Hodges was hoping to follow in the footsteps of relatives who had also spent their careers as GM employees. Ultimately, her only option was to transfer to a plant five hours from home. Then, a family crisis unleashes a chain of events that could cause her to lose her job entirely.
Gayle Listenbee resists a move to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, as she tries to remain in Janesville for her daughters and find work above minimum wage, after more than 20 years working at the GM plant and earning a decent living.
The loss of GM’s century-old plant forces the Janesville community to address a modern crisis – the middle-class depended on manufacturing jobs that have now left, leaving business leaders to try and woo new companies, sometimes with promises that employers can simply pay workers less. Political leaders looking for common ground find this a hard time, as Governor Walker takes the opportunity of economic crisis to stick it to unions and implement a far-right-wing agenda that cares little for working families.
The film is a co-production between Milwaukee-based 371 Productions, Kartemquin Films and Independent Television Service (ITVS). In addition to its selection as part of the Milwaukee Film Festival, “As Goes Janesville” has earned “Best Documentary” awards and other accolades at film festivals across the country.
VIP tickets and admission to the Preview Party at Alterra’s Back Room immediately following the showing at the Oriental Theatre are available at http://asgoesjanesvillemke.eventbrite.com/. The preview party includes food from Milwaukee Localicious, drinks from the Milwaukee Brewing Company and entertainment from blackmix.
Proceeds from the premiere party fundraiser support “BizLab,” a community engagement campaign to use the film as a way to bring together business, labor and other key civic groups in communities across America. Building on the film’s themes of economic reinvention, middle class struggle and political polarization, the filmmakers are engaging communities in a process that brings people out of their ideological encampments in order to discover common ground on which they might work together in reviving their local economies.
If you can’t make the October 6 premiere, the film shows three more times in the following week, with tickets available at http://mkefilm.org/. A one-hour version of the film will air nationally on PBS beginning October 8.