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Xcèntric 2022

Berwick Street Film Collective: Nightcleaners


Nightcleaners documents the struggle to unionise a group of women who clean large office blocks at night, working under precarious conditions. Intended originally by the members of the British Berwick Street Film Collective (Marc Karlin, Mary Kelly, James Scott and Humphry Trevelyan) as a campaign film, during the process it becomes an essayistic, self-reflexive film about the difficulty of representing these experiences and subjectivities: "what we did was we revealed the situation of the nightcleaners on the one hand and, on the other, the impossibility of capturing those lives" (Karlin).

Between 1970 and 1972, former cleaner May Hobbs, with the support of members from the women's movement, encouraged the women who cleaned London's office blocks to unionise and fight for better pay and working conditions. Berwick Street Film Collective's work focuses on the largely immigrant cleaners of the London Shell building, who had to alternate their repetitive work with domestic chores and caring for their families.

"A landmark work of British political cinema and of collective and feminist film-making" according to Annette Kuhn, Nightcleaners reveals the relationships and distances between all the parties concerned (the cleaners, the Cleaner's Action Group, the unions, the filmmakers, the public). Through intimate and affective portraits - rephotographed faces - interviews and intermittent editing, the material nature of these silenced lives and the monotony of their work is captured in an atmosphere of endless night.

Nightcleaners, Berwick Street Collective, 1972, UK, 16 mm, 90 min, Catalan subtitles.

Digital projection. Copy from LUX.

Directors: Berwick Street Film Collective

This activity is part of Xcèntric 2022

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