Argentina at the end of 2001: After three years of hyper-recession and the collapse of the banking system, many Argentinean companies are on the brink of the abyss and can no longer pay their wages. This is also the fate of the Brukman textile factory, which at this point employs around 120 workers and can only pay a weekly wage of around 5-10 pesos in the final weeks of the crisis.
The film tells the story of about 30 seamstresses who, on 17 December 2001, simply occupy their sewing shop, which is threatened with bankruptcy, and continue it under their own steam. Of the approximately 200 factories that were occupied in Argentina between 2001 and 2003, Brukman is one of the most famous. At Brukman, high-quality fashion by international brands such as Yves Saint Laurent, Cacharel, Christian Dior or Paco Rabanne is produced, mainly by women.
When hunger riots broke out all over the country on December 18, about 40 workers of the Brukman sewing factory occupied the factory building that same night. Most of them are apolitical women who only want to defend their jobs. In the beginning they were only interested in fighting for their outstanding wages. The experience of struggle and solidarity led to an enormous politicization for many of them. Soon they demanded that the factory be expropriated by the state and left to them to manage themselves.
The news of the occupation spreads around the world like wildfire via the Internet. The seamstresses become heroes of a new class struggle. They begin to read Marx and Trotsky and take to the streets for a more just society. With the support of workers’ parties they demand the expropriation of their former boss Jacobo Brukman.
However, it soon turns out that the victims of the Argentinean financial crisis are not only the workers who fight to keep their jobs, but also the entrepreneurs who have to watch their life’s work go to pieces. The media nevertheless blames the Jewish owners of the BRUKMAN textile factory, who in the course of history have become the capitalist enemy and in the end are even carried through the streets of Buenos Aires as a personified pig’s head.
After one year and 4 months, however, the dream of self-determination is suddenly destroyed. In the early morning hours of April 17, 2003, the police stormed the BRUKMAN textile factory and re-conquered the factory building. A few days later, when some Brukman workers, supported by thousands of demonstrators, try to break through the police cordons to retake the factory, bloody riots break out.
Since then the machines at Brukman have been at a standstill. The factory is guarded day and night by the police. Jacobo Brukman has fled the factory for fear of repression and the workers have set up a tent camp outside the gates of the factory to continue fighting for their dream of a more just society.
The documentary film director Marcus Vetter, who himself lived in Buenos Aires, came across the story of Brukman’s seamstresses during a trip to Argentina in 2002. Impressed by the women’s determination to defend their jobs, he spontaneously began to tell their story. The story of a minority, as it soon turns out. Because 80 of the 120 workers were against the occupation of the factory. Their employer Jacobo Brukman, they tell us, had always been a good boss, who in better times even paid holiday and Christmas bonuses.
Who are the victims of the Argentine financial crisis? The workers who are desperately fighting to keep their jobs? Jacobo Brukman, who not only loses his factory as a result of the economic crisis, but in the end is branded an arch-capitalist of the worst kind?
There is not only one truth in this story. “The Battle for Brukman” is the workers’ struggle for their own survival and it is a battle of contradictory views on truth and justice.
The shooting ends abruptly. At Easter 2003, the factory is stormed and evacuated by the police in a night and fog action. Three days later the seamstresses, supported by thousands of demonstrators, try to take back the factory. The uprising is brutally crushed.
But then the story takes a surprising turn.
|Year of production
|A production of
Indian Summer Motion Pictures
|In cooperation with
|Director of Photography
|FIPA, Festival International de Programmers Paris