Some of the best films I've seen in recent months have been documentaries ("Tell Them Who You Are", "Overnight") and "The Take", a film by director Avi Lewis and author Naomi Klein, keeps the streak going, although it's not without some issues. "The Take" explores the situation in Argentina, where a previously solid economy collapsed in 2001, resulting in factories that were built with public subsidies being abandoned and jobs being downsized and heading elsewhere. Banks took billions in foreign money out in the middle of the night, yet the government froze all national accounts, leaving the people of the country without access to their own savings, causing riots.
However, after unemployment skyrocketed and the situation got worse. Many months later, the workers take it upon themselves to get their jobs back: they moved into their old places of employment, cleaned them up and started the machines that had been silent for so long. Workers that were successful in doing so at one plant inspired another, and they inspired another, and so on. The former owners considered it stealing and threatened to evict, but the workers called it expropriation and stand up against several attempts to get them to withdraw. Their slogan: "Occupy. Resist. Produce." The owners of these plants (such as the the Forja Auto Parts factory, which is the main subject of the picture) aren't happy with the proceedings, but the workers see the potential in their plan and fight the right to challenge ownership.
However, the fight for their jobs isn't easy. Although the initial success of the workers gains them the respect and fierce support of the community, they still face an uphill battle against the prior management of factories full of as much as $90m in equipment and go through hard times when it appears president Carlos Menem (responsible for the countrie's economic downfall as he essentially sold off the country's assets) may find his way back into office again. One of his first steps if he did get back into office would be putting a stop to the worker control of factories. On top of all that, the previous owners attempt to sell off the machines from the factories.
In the end, things do finally go the way of the workers, as the organization of workers recovers thousands of lost jobs (in some neighborhoods, the unemployment rate was at 60%) and is the first step to jumpstart an economy that had previously ground to a halt. The workers discuss the needed decisions, do their own accounting and get paid (according to them) fairly. Towards the end of the film, we find out that one particular factory has increased production and taken on more workers.
"The Take" certainly moves briskly and the movement's success is remarkable to watch. However, the documentary's main flaw is that it gives more of an "overview" of events. We see that the workers were able to successfully band together to create jobs where there were none, but it really doesn't much get into the details of day-to-day operations, aside from a scene where the workers travel to another factory to discuss working out an agreement. In other words, we hear the whys and see the whats, but don't get enough of the hows.
The film's other issue is that Klein and Lewis get themselves involved a few times too often, whether on-screen or in the narration. These moments just call too much attention to the presence of the filmmaking duo and, in an 87-minute picture that already could use some filling out, the story needs all the time it can get.
Still, some considerable faults aside, this is a fascinating, thought-provoking and often quite moving documentary that looks at workers who successfully pushed to get their own jobs back in factories long silent, and managed to do so on their own terms.
VIDEO: "The Take" is presented by First Run in its original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. For a low-budget documentary shot with video cameras, the picture quality is surprisingly good. Sharpness and detail aren't outstanding and aren't entirely consistent throughout the presentation, but - at least for the most part - the picture appeared crisp and nicely detailed.
Some minor shimmering did appear at times, but otherwise, the picture quality didn't show any noticable faults. Colors looked natural and nicely saturated, with no smearing or other concerns.
SOUND: The 5.1 audio is perfectly fine "documentary-style" sound, clearly capturing dialogue and background sounds.
EXTRAS: A 27-minute documentary provides a look at the making of the film. It's interesting to hear about how the crew was drawn to the project and how intense it was to try and follow the frequently changing situation. However, there are a few dismaying moments, such as how Lewis discusses (and shows) his attempts to get an on-camera interview with a high-ranking IMF employee that, surprisingly enough, agrees to an on-camera interview. Lewis then tells us that the interview was so boring that he culdn't put it in the film. Given the discussion of the IMF in the film, this could have provided some insight. There's an extremely brief clip, but that's it - and no deleted scenes are offered here, which is also surprising, given how much tape we see that the filmmakers have shot. Still, those issues aside, this is still a mostly involving look at how the filmmakers were able to capture the events seen in the picture.
Additionally, we get the short documentary, "Gustav Benedetto: Presente!", which looks at one of the protestors killed in December of 2001 when fierce demonstrations against IMF policies broke out in Argentina.
Final Thoughts: While not without some faults, "The Take" is a fascinating tale of workers without options struggling to re-start their factories themselves and get their jobs back. The DVD offers very good audio/video quality, as well as a couple of decent supplements. Recommended.