With Maquilopolis, Vicky Funari and Sergio De La Torre sought to create an activist film about exploited female workers in the Third World. That alone does not render the film unique, but the directors opted for a highly singular approach to production: by training the women to use the cameras themselves (via a six-week video workshop) and having them document the everyday difficulties of their own lives, the directors achieved an extraordinary intimacy that is utterly unparalleled in documentary filmmaking. Funari and co. hone in on the <I>maquiladoras</I>, massive below-the-border factories that promise immigrant women slightly above average hourly wages to engage in manual labor. Most candidates accept, little realizing that they will soon become automatons in a multinational industrialized machine - one that holds profit and output high above the safety and well-being of its workers. The Mexican government claims to support labor, but does little (of course) to discourage the multi-billion dollar conglomerates that continue to pump new life into the national economy. Because of the vantage point from which it is shot, Maquilopolis views the slimy underbelly of this system. Funari, De La Torre and the respective women place a particularly strong emphasis on the environmental catastrophes produced by the maquiladoras, where untold amounts of toxic waste are poured into local waters, causing severe health problems and leading to numerous early deaths for area residents. After the film documents these problems, it subsequently creates a moving biographical portrait of two impoverished workers - Lourdes Lujan and Carmen Duran - who grow so sick of the abuse that they decide to stand up and take joint action against the system that imprisons them, inspiring others to do the same.
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