Solidarity

***

Reviewed by: Sunil Chauhan

Solidarity
"It’s when she interviews female members from activist groups and unions who formed relationships with undercover police that Solidarity acquires a deeper heft, its hitherto simmering threads now boiling to the surface." | Photo: Courtesy of Doc/Fest

Beginning with a shot of a bricklayer opening his blacklist file before moving on to an electrician displaying a banner in a meeting hall, Lucy Parker’s Solidarity is a window into the murky world of workplace blacklisting.

Centring on a group of construction workers whose names were placed on a blacklist made by Consulting Association - the secretive anti-union operation established by firms including Sir Robert McAlpine - so that companies could identify difficult or supposedly dissident workers, Parker uses a low-key approach to show how susceptible workers were to shadowy forces, charting how secretive lists of those deemed to be a threat often ruined their lives without them ever knowing why or having a chance to contest the judgement.

Filming law students staging mock trials to prepare campaigners for the stand, interviews with staff, heartfelt meetings and choice archive footage of a select committee hearing for the Consulting Association, Parker tackles blacklisting from multiple angles. She also explores the struggles between workers campaigning for their rights – both British citizens and migrants - and firms out to dismantle unions that threaten productivity and profit to galvanising effect.

But it’s when she interviews female members from activist groups and unions who formed relationships with undercover police that Solidarity acquires a deeper heft, its hitherto simmering threads now boiling to the surface. Tackling modern subterfuge and the emotional toll on those used to extract information for the Consulting Association and its predecessor the Economic League, it grants the film a cumulative power, sketching a broad, multi-tentacled portrait of a complex issue.

Parker might have done well to get her hands a little dirtier – as a patient, understated look at an explosive subject, Solidarity’s artistic aesthetic doesn’t lose sight of its targets, but can feel a little too neat. More time might have been spent down each of its potential rabbit holes, but this is still a timely, rousing film.

Solidarity will screen at Open City Documentary Festival and feature a Q&A with the director on September 7

Reviewed on: 27 Aug 2019
Share this with others on...
Solidarity looks at blacklisting in the construction industry where thousands of workers were denied employment for involvement in trade union activism and workplace disputes.

Director: Lucy Parker

Year: 2019

Runtime: 76 minutes

Country: UK

Festivals:

Doc/Fest 2019

Search database: