Culture, Globe, Screen, Struggles, Trade Unions, United Kingdom, Workers

Recognising Latin American cleaners

“Limpiadores” (Cleaners), the documentary that narrates the lives, struggles and suffering of a handful of Latin Americans who work as cleaners in a London university, has won two new prizes. The odyssey of those immigrants is therefore still provoking discussion.

 

The 2017 BUFVC Awards evening at the BFI
Fernando Mitjans – BUFVC Awards at the BFI

“A moving account of the struggles faced by outsourced cleaning staff around the world”. These are the words used by the Learning on Screen awards to describe the documentary “Limpiadores”, a film from Cuban director Fernando Mitjáns.

This was why the documentary was awarded both the Student Postgraduate Award and the Special Jury Prize, which highlighted “the editing and sound mixing in this strongly observational, beautifully-made and vital film”.

The documentary “Limpiadores” was completed in September 2015 as part of the final MA dissertation of its filmmaker, who studied ethnographic and documentary film at University College London.

The documentary portrays the lives of a group of Latin Americans who work as cleaners at one of the most prestigious universities in the British capital. Together, they demand and obtain a series of fundamental labour rights.

Limpiadores_Absalon5The film goes much further than this as, for the first time and using those same workers, it recounts an episode in 2009 when a raid ended with nine undocumented immigrants being deported from the United Kingdom while they were working at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

“The documentary began with the idea of criticising higher education, and it ended up criticising subcontracting, a neoliberal practise where individuals are at the mercy of businesses and financial and capitalist interests”, explained Mitjáns in an interview with The Prisma.

Limpiadores_Absalo_n3Such struggles have not since ended. Workers have held demonstrations and strikes with the aim of casting light on their demands, educating other workers and pupils who work at UCL on a daily basis, and denouncing the practises of their employers.

The prizes awarded thus join a series of recognitions given to the film, which have meant it has been selected by and screened at more than 30 festivals worldwide.

The aim of the awards, which are in their eighth year, is to recognise films that wish to educate. On this particular occasion, they judged 41 nominations in 11 categories.

(Translated by Abaigh Wheatley – email: abaighwheatley@hotmail.co.uk)

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