Available on DVD: MURDER BY PROXY: HOW AMERICA WENT POSTAL
Emil Chiaberi’s exposé of workplace conditions that drive people to their breaking point screened at a number of festivals beginning in 2010, including Montreal World and Strasbourg. It became available on DVD last month.
Taking as its point of departure the series of workplace shootings that took place in the mid-1980s and 1990s, most notably at post offices, Chiaberi’s film seeks to go beyond sensationalism to try to understand why seemingly ordinary people one day snapped. Media footage of the incidents at the time focused on the idea that there was something wrong with the individuals, but through contemporary interviews, a different picture emerges to explain this desperate behavior. Subjects in Chiaberi’s film argue that the murderous impulses were the result of abuse by employers and generally demeaning working conditions, and, through the course of the film, some of the interviewees are involved with trying to get legislation passed to address this issue. Perhaps most provocatively, Chiaberi argues that we’re on the verge of a potential epidemic of violence due to the recession – laying the blame squarely at the feet of our political leaders, who, since Reagan, have systematically stripped workers of their power, instead privileging their superiors. While the film has its issues – the occasional narration is weak, the sound levels are off, and it errs on the side of the conventional talking heads issue doc – Chiaberi gets good material out of his subjects, and its relevance to recent attempts to union bust beg an update that can help it resonate even more for today’s audience.