An engrossing biography of resistance against repression, Udita is a mosaic of stories from an industry characterised by exploitation and industrial homicide.
In 2013 the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, killing 1,134 workers and leaving 2,500 seriously injured. Udita’s story tellers are the women of such factories – the women who work 14 hour shifts and whose children call them ‘aunty’ because they are cared for by their grandmothers, the union activists living alone in slums, and the leaders of factory strikes. In an industry 85-90% staffed by women, Udita serves as testimony to the strength and bravery of women under fire.
Five years of visits to Dhaka’s garment factories provided directors Hannan Majid and Richard York with a remarkable array of footage. This film offers a timeline of an industry in overdrive: halfway through the film the camera pans upwards, revealing an endless production line of workers stitching labels onto jumpers.
A highlight of Udita (Arise) is its understanding and portrayal of self-determination. Most people who report on the garment industry fall into the trap of supplanting their own story for that of garment workers, turning the narrative into one about the guilt and agency of ‘consumers’ in the ‘West’. All too often garment workers are cast as helpless victims in need of saving and it is very rare to encounter the viewpoint of union organisers in Dhaka. Thankfully Udita avoids this approach completely and instead portrays what is happening on the ground and, most importantly, why it is happening.
Udita is released free to watch and share on Youtube.
Udita’s difficult stories of trauma and loss are sensitively handled. Viewers cannot avoid the message that conditions are extremely bad in the industry and no one will be able to forget Razia Begum’s story of losing two daughters and a son in law to Rana Plaza, nor of the horrors of the Tazreen factory fire as described by Shohibita Rani. Yet this film is also one of hope because people are standing up for themselves. Things are changing because women, like the inspirational Ratna Miah, are working long days on garment assembly lines and then going to union offices to learn about their rights and to plan demonstrations, strikes and the reinstatement of sacked colleagues. They are doing this despite the risk of being intimidated, beaten and sacked by factory thugs.
This insight into grassroots resistance is a key strength for this film and a big reason why it deserves to be widely viewed. Those wanting to work for change in the garment industry, to prevent another Rana Plaza, need to identify where change is already happening and help to apply pressure. In Bangladesh this means supporting union organisations like the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF). The film’s beautifully shot protest footage gives a sense of the size of the industrial struggle that is taking place, huge demonstrations march through Dhaka: a sea of shouted slogans, red flags and saris.
Towards the end of the film we meet Aleya Atta poised in a warehouse with what can only be described as an army of workers who are about to join an NGWF demonstration. With 30 years of factory work behind her, Aleya is a deeply inspiring woman who has made educating women about their rights and unionising factories her life’s work. The women she is with describe how their boss locked the factory gates having not paid them for two months: ‘We protested outside the factory, then we marched to the owner’s house,’ one woman says. ‘After that he paid us one of the months’ pay.’
These workers, like the wider movement, have formed a powerful group, determined to keep protesting and get what they are owed even if it means breaking the locks on the factory. ‘For 30 years the factory has ripped us off. Our eyes were closed, we understood nothing… now our eyes are open, we’re standing up for ourselves. We are all one. Friends of the world, unite as one!’
Udita is inspiring on a global level, the stories these women share with us are life lessons about why the world needs to change, and how it is to be done.
Tansy E. Hoskins is the author of Stitched Up – The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion.
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
Greenwald speaks Trump, War on Terror, and citizen activism
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn