In the digital age with so many distractions, it’s unusual just to stop and observe. Our attention spans are increasingly under assault and modern filmmaking inexorably reflects this. However, documentary filmmaking is an area which can offer a refreshing alternative. The most famous modern example is the ‘Qatsi’ trilogy, but Mauro Herce’s 2015 film Dead Slow Ahead proved how beguiling and powerful observation can be. Whilst Rahul Jain uses the occasional interview in Machines, it’s essentially a ballad to industry.
Indian sweatshops are strictly off-limits for press and heavily guarded. Jain manages to secure access to one of the myriad of textile mills in Sachin. What’s remarkable about this access is that it seems totally unrestricted. Indeed, in one of the interviews a contractor seemed happy as a pig in shit to explain precisely why he can exploit workers. Machines is a film about those who are so poor they have no option but to work 12 hour shifts and those who live a life of luxury off their toil and sweat.
The obvious route for Rahul Jain to go down with Machines would have be to make an undercover exposé. However, the choice to let the camera sweep around the factory, capturing the daily minutiae of the workers’ lives. Soundtracked to the background noises, has an eerily powerful hypnotic effect. There’s still that element of investigative journalism, but for the most part the camera does the talking. Machines is a transfixing inside into another world. A world where a face can speak a thousand words.
Machines is out in cinemas from Friday.