Work in Single Takes, Vol. 2

Students taking the course on Documentary Forms (Film 125 / German 184) in Fall 2022, taught by Deniz Göktürk and Qingyang Freya Zhou, learned about everyday practices of documentary production: filmmakers observing, participating, and reflecting, as they record how human and non-human actors work, live, and play. To gain hands-on experience, the young documentarists made two-minute single takes on labor, a project inspired by German filmmaker Harun Farocki’s Eine Einstellung zur Arbeit / Labour in a Single Shot. The student film series is the second installment of the project from spring 2022.

Turnaround by Beate Björkengren

For my single shot, I decided to film the cable car turnaround at Powell station in San Fransisco. I found the discrepancy between vehicles transporting humans and workers transporting cars through the turnaround interesting. The fact that a cable car (built by humans to transport them and to ease their labor) has to be manually turned around subverts the idea that it is the vehicle that transports us and simultaneously shows us the labor that goes into public transport. Furthermore, I find the spot interesting as it features a lot of street vendors and performers also doing labor and trying to take advantage of all the tourists queuing up for the cable car, so there is a mesh of different kinds of labor that all connect with each other.

Taco Sinaloa by Valentina Flores

I decided to film Latin workers in Berkeley, so I chose Taco Sinaloa, since I am Mexican and speak Spanish, I loved to film there. I first went in and started talking to the owner and the workers, and once they felt I was not a complete stranger, I asked if I could film them during their work. The music playing in the background is called Caraluna from the group Bacilos, which is really famous in Mexico. I wanted to make this present to show how the workers make their space a place where they feel good.

Venmo Chess Tables by Mikayla Heslin

The idea that I had for my Labor in a Single Shot was to film the chess tables on the Southside of Berkeley. What inspired me to use it for this particular project was the fact that at each table, there was a Venmo QR code asking for donations/tips for playing a game. Such passive forms of “labor” and income generation are becoming more common in today’s day and age. Playing chess itself is a mixture of work and leisure as there is the mental labor of the game, but it is still generally seen as a leisure activity. I found the commercialization of a leisure activity, as well as the concept of making money without actually being present thought provoking. I hope to create a discussion about what could be considered labor amidst all these new technologies and ways of thinking.

Hair Salon by Joah Hoang

I decided to focus on the hair stylist married couple in San Fransico’s Chinatown for my Labor in a Single Shot. Spending over three hours getting to know them, allowed me to have more in-depth stories about their daily life, the operation of this hair salon, as well as the changes before and after the pandemic. I could feel their love for the job and, above all, their enjoyment of working, which motivated me to choose these characters. The couple brings an extremely positive energy that we can observe in the layout of the shop: colorful, fresh flowers, and lots of light. The big-boss belt detail is my unexpected highlight, which reinforces what I wanted to convey in this shot: the enjoyment of work.

Garbage Disposal by Hoyeon Kim

For my labor in a single shot, I wanted to portray and emphasize the concept of under-appreciated labor. The sanitation workers, as they pick up our garbage, performed essential work during the pandemic. Even now, their work is vital for the functioning of our everyday lives. When everything came to a halt, they still had to work. To emphasize this concept of loneliness and under-appreciation, I wanted to have a shot set in a very secluded, quiet, and almost centralized position as the garbage disposal worker comes close to the camera as he picks up the large garbage can in the back lot of my apartment complex. Having him centered in the frame, I believe, gave this sense of focus to this work. Also, by doing so, I wanted to highlight how his career was surrounded by stillness in a lonely quiet morning setting.

Pink Venom by Anna Lauritsen

For my single shot, I decided to film a TikToker recording herself dancing – a highly contemporary form of work, but nonetheless a job that an increasing number of people are able to make a living off of. The idea of the dancer being the performer, camera-woman, and spectator all at once is not necessarily meant to show how narcissistic TikTok culture is (although that interpretation is welcome, too) – it is more so a representation of how social media has completely altered how work can be defined. Where a dancer would traditionally have a cheering audience, choreographers, and a technical crew, this shot shows how she does it all by herself.

Pineapple Bun Squirrel by Francoise Leung

My primary topic is performance, and I think the working squirrel can be classified as a successful show. The whole video was full of unexpected turning points. I was resting on the grass, and suddenly two squirrels came into my sight. They climbed down from the tree behind me, and one of the squirrels carefully walked toward me. It smelled my shoe and stopped in front of my pineapple bun. In a squirrel’s world, it is working on getting food. And I am a bystander who witnessed its working process. However, as it turns out, the squirrel had different priorities…

About Qingyang Freya Zhou

Qingyang Freya Zhou is a PhD candidate in German Studies, with a Designated Emphasis in Film Studies, at UC Berkeley. Her research focuses on the intersections between socialist internationalism and postcolonial studies, particularly the literary and cinematic interactions between Germany and East Asia during the Cold War and beyond.
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