2017 Sundance Docs in Focus: MACHINES

Rahul Jain observes the lives of Indian textile factory workers.

Festival Section:
World Cinema Documentary Competition


Sundance Program Description:

With rare access to the guarded world of sweatshops, Rahul Jain brings us into one of the thousands of textile mills in heavily industrialized Sachin, India. To the rhythmic churning of machines, his anatomical exploration follows the flow of fabric through the labyrinthine factory as it’s carted around; spooled and unspooled; and passed through dye presses, baths, and sundry machines – ultimately headed to couture stores a world apart. But the dim and claustrophobic mill, with its chaotic patchwork of cords and pipes, is also home to human toil.

A visceral, intensely cinematic experience, MACHINES explores the intertwining of worker and machine, labor and commodity, and humanity and industrialization. Through mesmerizing chiaroscuro imagery that echoes Salgado, MACHINES offers indelible impressions of machine labor: a man battling a fiery furnace, a child repeatedly jolting himself awake as he feeds fabric along the line. And through scant dialogue, the film gives voice to the countless migrant workers who take out loans to travel great distances and work 12-hour days, often more – all for a chance at a barely livable existence.

Some Background:

  • Rahul Jain
    This is Jain’s debut film, which had its world premiere in competition at last year’s IDFA.


  • Thanassis Karathanos
    The Pallas Films co-head’s past projects have screened at major festivals including Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Locarno, and Toronto, and include the Oscar-nominated AJAMI and the Golden Globe-nominated ELLE. This is his first Sundance credit.

  • Iikka Vehkalahti
    2017 marks the first Sundance credits for the former documentary commissioning editor of Finnish broadcaster YLE. In that role, he supported hundreds of projects, including the Oscar-nominated THE LOOK OF SILENCE. He also co-produced fellow 2017 Sundance World Cinema Documentary Competition title WINNIE.


Why You Should Watch:
Jain carefully composes his project to function as both an institutional study and an environmental portrait, conveying for the viewer the sights, sounds, and, with some imagination, the feel and smell of the Gujurati textile factory. The film achieves a kind of hypnotic quality as it juxtaposes both machines signaled by its title – factory workers and their equipment alike.

More Info:

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance 2017 Twitter list.

1 Comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

One response to “2017 Sundance Docs in Focus: MACHINES

  1. Pingback: New garment factory doc: Machines | the back office

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