Eye For Film >> Movies >> Quality Control (2011) Film Review
Reviewed by: David Graham
'Document [verb]: to show the existence or truth of by evidence.' In this regard, Quality Control is an unqualified success. But then again, unedited security footage would be, too. In a climate where the cinematic documentary has become a universal box office draw, what is it that audiences expect and ask of these offerings? To be intrigued? Informed? Entertained? Sadly, Kevin Jerome Everson's portrait of an Alabama dry-cleaners fails miserably on each of these counts. It may well have worked as an experimental short, or an exhibit in an art gallery, but as a piece of cinema Quality Control is self-defeating.
This black and white 16mm film opens with a 10-minute static shot of the 'action' in its Southern sweatshop setting. We watch as a group of black people - men and women - buzz around a maze of machines and clothing, juggling their various tasks like dutiful worker bees in a claustrophobic hive. This languorous shot forces us to assess their situation; these people make a pittance looking after parades of dresses and suits they could never hope to afford, the deafening hum of industry only alleviated by crackly snatches of radio. Even this music seems to rub in the reality of their lot; feelgood disco songs waft in and out of hearing as if to tease them, Barry White's Can't Get Enough Of Your Love representing everything they seem to be denied; fun, romance, success, white approbation. The camera's unflinching gaze becomes suffocating, the environment growing ever more upsetting as the clothes and machines become more oppressive.
The film progresses to linger on various other people at work, but without dialogue or comment, Quality Control becomes almost unbearably alienating. Everson's non-technique may hold a harsh mirror up to our implicit involvement in his subject's plight, but his approach quickly becomes disheartening. The camera's radically unflinching gaze may reflect the director's righteous anger at how African American people are being used as slave labour, but it doesn't make for an enlightening or involving viewing experience.
It's borderline offensive to expect people to pay to sit through 70 minutes of this; it's never going to wash with audiences weaned on Michael Moore, Kevin McDonald and James Marsh, directors who could probably make a more interesting film about paint drying. Ultimately, Quality Control is an admirable attempt to bring attention to the stifling working conditions of America's underprivileged, but as a film it's an insult to the documentary form, depressingly devoid of interest or insight.Reviewed on: 25 Jun 2011
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