The disaster of Rana Plaza which claimed the lives of over 1,127 garment workers has been turned into a documentary. Tansy Hoskins reviews Tears in the Fabric
Tears In The Fabric is a portrait of grief and struggle in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The story is told through the eyes of Razia Begum, Grandmother to two small boys orphaned when their parents were killed in the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse.
Having lost the family’s breadwinners – two daughters and a son-in-law – and having received no corporate compensation for their deaths Razia’s struggle for justice is a harsh road to walk. And walk she does, taking the boys to and from their school, the graveyard, to union protests, and from house to house because, being homeless, they sleep at a different relatives house each night.
In Tears In The Fabric, the psychological scars left behind by the sheer horror of Rana Plaza are palpable. Few of the protagonists are able to stop crying, one year on there is no closure, no basic material comfort to salve wounds and above all no justice.
But this does not mean there is no struggle. This is not a film devoid of hope, those affected by Rana Plaza are fighting with everything they have to get what is rightfully theirs. The protests organised by the National Garment Workers Federation in Bangladesh are large and militant and on the buses to and from the protests families share their stories and their hopes for justice. There is no sense of anyone having given up. The weakness of the film is that the section showing the protests is too fleeting, which leaves a slight impression that garment workers need sympathy rather than solidarity action.
The film benefits from an eerie soundtrack from Asian Dub Foundation’s John Pandit and Louis Beckett who produced a medley of music and whirring sewing machines. The inclusion of this industrial sound captured a very sinister reality: once you understand the context of what you are listening to, the only thing more terrifying than hearing the sewing machines whir is when they abruptly stop. As John Pandit explained: “Garment workers lives are controlled by the clock of capitalist production. When the sewing machines stopped so did their lives.”
The intimate telling of Razia’s story counters talk of Bangladesh’s ‘economic miracle’ and ‘freedom for women’. Whilst it does not set out to be a polemic against capitalism or even corporatism (there is no talk about Walmart making $17 billion a year yet pledging less than $1 million to victims of Rana Plaza), ultimately it is one of the most chilling indictments against capitalism and the fashion industry that you will ever see. Tears In The Fabric is not easy to watch but watch it you must.
Tears In The Fabric was produced by The Rainbow Collective, it is available free of charge online
Tansy Hoskins is the activist author of Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion. She has worked for Stop the War Coalition, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and the Islam Channel. As a political commentator she has discussed fashion, politics and change on Woman's Hour, BBC Breakfast and Channel 4's Ten O'Clock Live.
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- Rana Plaza: It is not consumers who have blood on their hands
- Introduction to Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion
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