May 30, 2017
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Documentary on the Indian textile and clothing industry shocks the world

May 30, 2017

This month, documentary film “Machines” opened the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, an event bringing together executives from leading clothing brands, social associations and politicians to discuss ethical and sustainable fashion.

In the film, director Rahul Jain presents an intimate portrait of the rhythm of life and work at a giant textile factory in Gujarat, India. Moving through the corridors, the camera immerses the viewer into a claustrophobic space of exploited workers and child labor, provoking a reflection on the working conditions in the global supply chain.

Since the 1960s, the Sachin region of western India has undergone unprecedented, unregulated industrialization exemplified in its numerous textile factories. "Machines" depicts but one of these factories, but represents the thousands of workers working in the Indian Textile and Garment Industry (ITV).

Weakened health

With strong visual language, striking images and carefully selected interviews with the workers themselves, Jain tells a story of inequality and oppression of humans and machines. The factory employs 1,500 workers and some are seen sleeping on piles of fabric.

"The workers were poor, they were sick and they coughed a lot, several had hearing problems," recalls Jain, a student at the California Institute of Arts, in a statement to Reuters.

The noise of the machines to which these workers are exposed serves as the film's soundtrack.
"The workers used headphones with loud music to block the sound (of the machines), but this causes them even more damage. Your lungs are damaged because you breathe in silica dust and also carbon particles, "says Jain.

The 25-year-old filmmaker, who grew up in Delhi, spent nearly six months (across three years) filming inside the factory, with workers earning less than $3 for shifts of 12 or more hours. The film also ends with the workers asking Jain to help in their fight for an eight-hour shift.

Rahul Jain said that although "Machines" was not filmed for activism purposes, he hoped the government would take steps to support workers in the country's textile and clothing industry.


Launched in late 2016, the film won the jury prize for best photography at the Sundance Film Festival this year. "Machines" has already premiered in Britain and will debut in India later this year. Jain said that screenings are being planned for the country's most densely populated industrial cities. "I hope, in the end, [the film] is used to show the government what it does not want to see," he concludes.

- Portugal Textil

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