Friday, September 08, 2006

Can't we live without jeans?

Micha X. Peled's documentary China Blue, shown last night at the Filmoteca de Catalunya, attracted an unusual number of spectators; on the one hand a result of growing interest in the excellent choice of documentaries shown in a series called "Documentary of the Month" organised by Parallel 40. On the other hand, the subjet of the movie and the way it was shot promised an unusual, revealing insight into the conditions of Chinese workers in the age of global commerce. However, having seen the movie I cannot believe it was shot secretly -as said by the producers- since it's impossible to walk into a factory with a camera and a micro unless somebody allows you in... In the credits it was mentioned that the local police forces intervened several times, that the crew had been taken to the policestation for interrogation and that material was confiscated and never returned.

The movie follows three teenager working girls in Mr. Lam's Jean factory in the South of China. Mr. Lam has tight deadlines imposed by his European clients and in order to compete in the global market he must commits to these conditions and to extremly low prices. But Mr. Lam, neo-entrepreneur and ex-chief of the local police, is all positiv about, he has come to the conclusion that " The cannot live without denims - That's our advantage!"

The film does a good job: it leaves us (spectators = consumers of made in China) with a bitter aftertastes. It's like that kind of effect that makes you vegatarian after having seen a slaughterhouse. I'm not sure if I like to wear jeans again... which is not the solution of course but an option. Anyway, I would like to wear denims but not at any price. There actually is a way to act although it seems difficult for us consumers to intervene in the flow of the global trade and change anything about slave-like working conditions in China and in many other low cost producing countries.

In Spain there is roba neta (Clean Cloths), an initiative set up by the NGO Setem which promotes
campaigns, focused on improving working conditions in the global garment and sportswear industries. Through their platform consumers can start putting pressure on the respective companies and brands (Inditex with Zara, Massimo Tutti, Beshka, etc.) to improve the precarious situation of workers their (sub-) contractors' factories.


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