The “star” of “Union” is the charismatic Chris Smalls, a former Amazon employee at its massive Staten Island warehouse, and the leader of a new union movement. As we all know full well by now, working conditions for Amazon employees are atrocious, at least in part because of how little collaborative negotiating can be done on behalf of the workers forced to work impossible hours. One of the ways that Amazon has gotten around the formation of unions at their company is through such incredible turnover that by the time a petition to form a union is complete, many of the signatures are invalid because the employee is no longer active. It’s a revolving door system that makes it impossible for workers to fight for what they deserve. Smalls and a team of like-minded activists are doing everything they can to fix this system, working hard on the ground while Jeff Bezos is in space—it’s not accidental that “Union” opens with the Amazon CEO’s journey as far away from his workers as one could possibly go.
Story and Maing’s film is more about union strategy than worker conditions, and it struggles a bit by virtue of its limited approach that keeps it locked in a relatively small time frame and specific place. The fight, and others like it, didn’t start or end here, which gives the film a bit of a snapshot approach that might feel incomplete to some. Having said that, the most interesting aspect of “Union” may be the reminder that these fighters are human too. Watching them fight over leadership roles and even meeting start times makes it clear how hard it can be to get so many passionate people on the same page for the same cause. It’s almost as hard as going to space.
Finally, there’s the somewhat divisive “Skywalkers: A Love Story,” a film with striking, impossible visuals that have never been on film before but a story that feels too manufactured and arguably even dangerous for this critic. I don’t need my films, documentaries or otherwise, to take a moral high ground, but “Skywalkers” opens that door by casually mentioning that dozens of people are killed or injured every year doing what happens in this film, and then completely brushes off the fact that this “love story” is about two influencers who have clearly encouraged their followers to trace their footsteps merely by making it look as thrilling and unforgettable as they do. Even if one gets past that ick factor as quickly as the filmmakers seem to do, there’s a hyper-stylized and even scripted nature to “Skywalkers” that makes it all feel a bit too much like a commercial. An ad for something insane.
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