Third Coast FilmLESS Festival Part II

I know it’s 10 days late, but other deadlines—having to do with my academic or professional lives!—hung over my head until now. So here’s a final review of other select pieces from the 2010 FilmLESS festival for radio arts, in downtown Chicago.

Tupperware, by David Nelson and Nikki Silva, aired in 1981 on All Things Considered. (I hear this piece was the debut of the now-infamous “Kitchen Sisters” duo.) The only thing that hinted this was made in 1981 was a bit of sound quality degradation. Otherwise, it was an avant-garde piece if I’ve ever heard it, about the fanaticism and just plain weirdness in the way this product is sold. I can’t believe something with this kind of production was on All Things Considered. Voices drifted in and out of one another, overlapping. There was no narrator. It bordered on noise at some points, but it was relevant—Tupperware parties are noisy things, apparently.

Si Se Puede, by Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister, aired on Latino USA in 2009. This ran longer than the others, at 22 minutes, but it was worth it. The piece chronicled the fight of 300 workers at Republic Window and Door to obtain what their contracts outlined once the plant closed. Republic had no choice but to deny them things like continued health insurance because Bank of America wouldn’t extend credit to the company.

Media got involved when they heard the story because Bank of America had just been granted billions in bailout money and now wasn’t passing that money on. Loans to small businesses reportedly dropped 42 percent after the “gross giveaway” that was the bailouts.

For the first time in America since 1937, workers conducted  sit-in of a business, at Republic. “They got bailed out, we got sold out!” was the chant. Eventually Bank of America gave in, and the workers left with health insurance and (I think) some kind of severance pay.

But wait, there’s an even happier ending!

The media attention caught the eye of a wealthy entrepreneur who bought the window and door business. It hasn’t yet been two months since the purchase, and he’s hired about 30 of the original 300 workers back, and they now make the most efficient windows and doors in the world. Woah. They just won the contract to provide new windows to the Empire State Building, so they’ll probably soon hire the rest of the laid-off workers. They’re in the running to provide the new windows to the Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower), in which case they may hire an additional 200 workers on top of that.

This story was relayed to me by Dan Collision—the producer—himself, as well as two workers from the factory who have been re-hired. They also had a representative from the union there lending background information. But mainly the workers just chatted with the audience. It rocked.

“We’re always trying to get press, and no one ever, ever covers labor,” said the union rep, a striking brunette in her early 30s. Strategic decision? She seemed genuine enough.

I like the idea of art that showcases labor. My sister has a coffee table book of photos from the world of long-distance trucking, shot by a photographer who became a trucker for several years. I’m jealous.

Last but not least, I sat feet from Ira Glass, the brainchild of This American Life, the program that changed radio forever. I’ll provide you my stream of tweets about this:

Ira Glass launches Reality Radio tonight, and i’m witnessing it right now. Reviews of #thirdcoastfest @ brandonsmith.com

As would be expected, even the MC’ing is reading art at #thirdcoastfest

Ira Glass: for my first 8 years as an npr employee i was incompetent at writing, reading for radio (!) #thirdcoastfest

No no, the father of “This American Life” proved it–he played clips. :) #thirdcoastfest

Ira Glass: The secret of This American Life? It gets normal ppl to transcend their banality b/c plot is a prereq #thirdcoastfest

For four stories This American Life will start with fifteen ideas and throw money at eight, then kill four. #thirdcoastfest

Glass: Tv, cinema, radio rock right now. American storytellers are doing their jobs. The rest of the economy is fucked up. #thirdcoastfest

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