Meeting Co-ops Across the Globe through Film

Meeting Co-ops Across the Globe through Film

A few suggestions for insightful holiday viewing

The holidays often mean there’s finally time to watch some films you’ve been meaning to see, like some intriguing and insightful documentaries about co-ops.

Food for Change is the first film to examine the historical role played by food co-ops as a force for dynamic social and economic change in American culture. The feature-length documentary makes sense of rare archival footage through commentary by filmmaker Steve Alves and social historians.

 
   

It includes three parts, encompassing: what led to the Great Depression; food co-ops as an outgrowth of the 1960s civil rights, war on poverty and anti-war movements; and an exploration of current co-ops, farmers and consumers taking control of their local economies. If you crave more on food co-ops, the Making Local Food Work program released some shorts about food co-ops that the organization has worked with in the UK.

Shift Change tells the stories of worker co-ops from Europe and North America, highlighting how employee owned co-op businesses provide secure, dignified jobs in democratic workplaces.

Founding member and director of Common Thread Co-op, Melanie Conn, screened Shift Change to a class of students she taught in the Community Economic Development certificate program at SFU Nelson last spring. She was moved by the way the film demonstrated so clearly that the co-op members truly felt a part of their workplaces, a sense of belonging, ownership and mutual respect.

“To me, that is the theme of the whole film,” she says. “When more people are paid equally, rather than one person at the top, the astronomical share of proceeds of the business spread around more equally, and more people spend it. And more people benefit. The community benefits. It’s such a win.”

“I thought it was so important for them to really illustrate so beautifully the depth of that participation and commitment,” she adds.

The Shift Change filmmakers recently voyaged to Mondragon, Spain, to follow up with some of the co-ops they interviewed for the film two years ago. They arrived just following the collapse of the housing boom in Europe, which strongly impacted industrial co-operative Fagor Home Appliances, into facing bankruptcy.

“Unlike what happened in the US when the home appliance industry moved to Mexico and beyond, Fagor workers are not thrown into the street with no options. Nearly all will find positions in other Mondragon cooperatives, some will take early retirement, and all are eligible for extended unemployment benefits,” explain the filmmakers in their recent blog post

The filmmakers spoke with Alaitz, a second generation member of Fagor Automation (which is still going strong) whose sister is a worker owner at Fagor Home Appliances. Alaitz has the last words in the documentary, speaking confidently about the Mondragon Co-operatives and her commitment to keeping them strong for her children.

“She said that she had been thinking about what she says in Shift Change and about whether she would say the same thing again after what has happened,” the blog post reads. “Yes,” she said, “I certainly would.”

For a list of co-op films, visit Cultivate Co-ops.

A version of this article was originally written for the British Columbia Co-operative Association (BCCA) news service. This repost, for which we received permission, follows the style guidelines of the original post. To learn more about generative newsroom options for your organization or community, please contact peter(at)axiomnews.ca.

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