Programmed by Federico Rossin
This independent feature documentary takes a close look at women working in the rag trade in 19th century Britain, about whom poets have written, over whom philanthropists went into raptures, and so on. The British Government eventually took an interest in seamstresses, which led to the adoption of the earliest labour laws to protect these workers. The film was made in the late 1970s with the participation of over 200 actors, technicians, musicians, artists, historians, academics, women’s groups and trades unions.
An astonishing essay film about women workers in nineteenth century London. This feminist tale about the origins of the welfare state takes the form of a layered, polymorphous documentary using a proliferation of screens, overhead projection of texts and images, and distanced acting. The back-and-forth between different places, different times and information highlights the contradictions specific to the labour market and produces a reinvention of women’s past. The combination of relentless political content and a disjointed, disturbing form makes “The Song of the Shirt” stand out from its contemporaries, and from our contemporaries too… A lesson in history and in filmmaking.
Cinema historian, independent programmer