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IU Themester Streaming and DVD Resources


Labor has long been understood in a variety of ways—as the dominion of human effort over nature; as the source of economic value; as the basis of citizenship, mobility, and independence; as the opportunity for self-realization; or as grounds for solidarity in the struggle for universal freedom.

Today we are undergoing a seismic shift in the way we experience our work lives. Accepted generalizations about labor and work have been thrown into doubt by robots, networks, algorithms, and the rise of global finance. The Socialist Bloc, with its “workers’ states,” has collapsed. In advanced economies, the “working class” has lost a coherent identity and mission. The notion of lifelong stable work for a single employer or even in a single economic sector has all but vanished. Consumerism rather than labor generates our cultural and economic values and self-fulfillment. The relationship between work and leisure has undergone a major transformation. Education, training, and skills can hardly keep up with the ever-changing demands of fluid workplaces.

Communication technology has decoupled the workplace as a geographic or social unit from the realm of production and profit and accelerated our perception of time. As unprecedented as the new U.S. workforce is, however, much of the world still works in circumstances difficult to relate to our own, as industrial wage-laborers or in precarious informal economies.

Themester 2015 will explore the cultural, technological, and historical legacy, the contemporary significance, and future implications of these dramatic and ongoing changes in the worlds of work. -- Adapted from IU Themester Homepage


From left to right:  Parasite, Bread & Roses, The Gleaners and I, Sorry to Bother You, Capitalism: A Love Story, Modern Times.

All images courtesy of, accessed August 2021

IUB Streaming Titles

The following resources require IUB CAS Authentication.

Bread and Roses (2000, 110 mins): In Los Angeles, illegal Mexican immigrant Maya (Pilar Padilla) finds work as a janitor through her sister, Rosa (Elpidia Carrillo). However, since both work for a non-union company, conditions are grim. After putting up with abuse from her bosses, Maya is open to the pro-union rhetoric offered by organizer Sam Shapiro (Adrien Brody).

The Cost of Cloth: Ethical Textiles (2011, 30 mins): Filmed in Bangladesh, one of the world's most active textile-producing countries, this program explores the social cost of the textile industry, which benefits mostly Western consumers and capitalists while creating oppressive environments in the developing world. Using eye-opening footage shot inside a number of Bangladeshi textile factories, the film explores issues of sweatshop labor - including poor working conditions, unfair wages, and the right to unionize - and asks viewers to consider where the responsibility for improving industry practices should lie.

Dolores ( 2017, 97min.) : Dolores Huerta is among the most important, yet least known, activists in American history. An equal partner in co-founding the first farm workers unions with Cesar Chavez, her enormous contributions have gone largely unrecognized. Dolores tirelessly led the fight for racial and labor justice alongside Chavez, becoming one of the most defiant feminists of the twentieth century - and she continues the fight to this day, at 87. With intimate and unprecedented access to this intensely private mother to eleven, the film reveals the raw, personal stakes involved in committing one's life to social change.

The Gleaners and I (2000, 138 mins): Agnès Varda’s extraordinary late-career renaissance began with this wonderfully idiosyncratic, self-reflexive documentary in which the French cinema icon explores the world of modern-day gleaners: those living on the margins who survive by foraging for what society throws away…By turns playful, philosophical, and subtly political, The Gleaners and I is a warmly human reflection on the contradictions of our consumerist world from an artist who, like her subjects, finds unexpected richness where few think to look.

The Oldest Profession: Should We Decriminalise Sex Work? (2018, 20 mins): In the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s support, Niki Adams from English Collective of Prostitutes, and Liz Hilton from Empower Foundation, outline the future of the oldest profession.

Secrets of Silicon Valley (2001, 57 mins): The film chronicles a tumultuous year in the lives of two young activists grappling with rapid social change and the meaning of globalization on their own doorsteps. Magda Escobar runs Plugged In, a computer training center in a low income community just a few miles from the epicenter of high-tech wealth. Raj Jayadev is a temporary worker who confronts the hype of Silicon Valley by revealing the reality of an unseen and unacknowledged army of immigrant workers...Part "Modern Times," part "Bladerunner," this film takes a critical look at the social impact of the new millenium's high technology. Includes public performance rights.

Slaves of the Cyberworld (2007, 54 mins): It goes by many names--digital outsourcing, micropayment, or an assortment of other harmless monikers. But when the hungry and desperate supply round-the-clock online labor for pennies or nothing, the term "slavery" starts to gain validity. This program examines the issue on a global level as it reveals the human cost of exploitative Internet businesses. Viewers meet struggling Serbian camera slingers who supply image after image to avaricious stock photography sites; a French waitress trying to make ends meet as an online translator, despite earning only a fraction of the minimum wage; and Chinese teenagers who, after working brutally long shifts testing video games, wait for paychecks that may never come.

Sorry to Bother You (2018, 110 mins): A black telemarketer's prowess as a salesman skyrockets when he adopts a "white voice." As he scales the corporate ladder, his personal loyalties, his activist girlfriend and his CEO's questionable ethics prompt him to examine his conscience.

The Wisdom to Survive: Climate Change, Capitalism & Community (2015, 56 mins): This film accepts the consensus of scientists that climate change has already arrived, and asks, what is keeping us from action? The film explores how unlimited growth and greed are destroying the life support system of the planet, the social fabric of society, and the lives of billions of people. Will we have the wisdom to survive?

The Work That Makes All Other Work Possible (TEDTalk, Ai-Jen Poo) (2018, 16 mins): Domestic workers are entrusted with the most precious aspects of people's lives -- they're the nannies, the elder-care workers and the house cleaners who do the work that makes all other work possible. Too often, they're invisible, taken for granted or dismissed as "help, " yet they continue to do their wholehearted best for the families and homes in their charge. In this talk, activist Ai-Jen Poo shares her efforts to secure equal rights and fair wages for domestic workers and explains how we can all be inspired by them.

Explore more awesome documentaries and feature films via IUCAT as well as via IUB's licensed subscriptions to Films for Education, Kanopy and SWANK at Media Services Libguide to Streaming Databases.

IUB DVD/Video Films

Be sure to check with Media Services for hours.  VHS titles are housed off-site at ALF, and can be requested via IUCAT.  

Call the Midwife, Seasons 1, 2, and 3: A moving, intimate, funny, and true-to-life look at the colorful stories of midwifery and families in East London in the '50s. Based on the bestselling memoirs of the late Jennifer Worth. When Jenny Lee first arrives in Poplar, she knows nothing about hardship, poverty, and life itself. But Jenny is brought up to speed fast once she joins a team of midwives who provide care to the poorest women.

Capitalism: A Love Story (2010, 127 mins): Michael Moore examines the impact of corporate dominance on the everyday lives of Americans (and by default, the rest of the world). The film moves from Middle America, to the halls of power in Washington, to the global financial epicenter in Manhattan. With both humor and outrage, the film explores the question: What is the price that America pays for its love of capitalism?

Class Dismissed: How TV Frames the Working Class (2005, 62 mins): Featuring interviews with media analysts and cultural historians, this documentary examines the patterns inherent in TV's disturbing depictions of working class people as either clowns or social deviants, stereotypical portrayals that reinforce the myth of meritocracy.

Dirty Pretty Things (2004, 97 mins): Nigerian exile Okwe and Turkish chambermaid Senay toil at a west London hotel that is full of illegal activity. Late one night Okwe makes a shocking discovery, which creates an impossible dilemma and tests the limits of all they know.

Emma Goldman (2004, 90 mins): For nearly half a century, Russian emigrant Emma Goldman was the most controversial woman in America, taunting the mainstream with her fervent attacks on government, big business, and war. To the tabloids, she was “Red Emma, queen of the anarchists,” but many admired Goldman for her defense of labor rights, women’s emancipation, birth control, and free speech.

Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story (1997, 112 mins): Examines the life of social activist Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement.

The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers’ Struggle (2006, 116 mins): The story of Cesar Chavez, founder of the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers. Examines the grape and lettuce boycotts and the non-violent movements of the 1960s and 1970s; these confronted conservative politicians and the Teamsters Union and inspired Chicano activism.

Modern Times (1936, 103 mins): Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin's last outing as the Little Tramp, puts the iconic character to work as a giddily inept factory employee who becomes smitten with a gorgeous gamine (Paulette Goddard). With its barrage of unforgettable gags and sly commentary on class struggle during the Great Depression, Modern times, though made almost a decade into the talkie era and containing moments of sound (even song!), is a timeless showcase of Chaplin's untouchable genius as a director of silent comedy.

Parasite (2019, 132 mins): Kim Ki-teak's family are all unemployed and living in a squalid basement. When his son gets a tutoring job at the lavish home of the Park family, the Kim family's luck changes. One by one they gradually infiltrate the wealthy Park's home, attempting to take over their affluent lifestyle.

Silkwood (1983, 131 mins): Karen Silkwood becomes contaminated with plutonium at her job, voices her protest at the indifference and denial of her company, and becomes a threat to the entire nuclear industry and the government agencies that monitor it. Based on a true story.

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