Written and directed by Alessia Crucitelli, ‘Leaving the Factory’ is a 2023 drama short released as part of the Santa Monica College Film Program. The film stars Roberta Sparta, Anne Bedian and Roberta De Santis.
Set in Los Angeles at the turn of the 20th century, ‘Leaving the Factory’ is the story of Marina, an Italian immigrant factory worker who sews to keep her family from hunger. Marina and her fellow female colleagues endure mistreatment and threats from their employers, a group of greedy capitalists who value profit above everything else. The mistreatment soon sparks a wider revolt across the factory led by Freeda as the women demand increased salaries and better living conditions. Marina and her family depend on the job and although she is apprehensive about the strike at the start, she joins the rebellion regardless. However, the women might have misinterpreted their sadistic employers entirely as the strike snowballs into a series of events with deadly consequences for the optimistic females.
Leaving the Factory is fantastic as a moving story combined with fantastic performances result in a story that hits close to the heart. This is a tale of perseverance and resolve and even though the odds are stacked against our protagonists, they demand their rightful dues regardless. The men facing them are disgusting, degenerative and downright evil but the women manage to hold their ground. Inspired by the real life event that galvanised labour rights across America, the film plays homage to the earliest heroes of the movement that enabled later generations of workers to enjoy unparalleled levels of prosperity.
Let us now focus our attention towards acting which is fantastic all around. Each actor does justice to her character and gives it her all. Roberta Sparta as Marina is captivating. Pushed by her desire to keep her family from falling into hunger, Marina is initially apprehensive about a strike but is eventually convinced by Freida, played by Anne Bedia, to join them. The rest of the women are inspirational in their own right as they reluctantly band together to demand the bare minimum. Equally repulsive and nasty are the business owners and the actors playing them did a stellar job in this regard. I hated each of them immensely and that speaks to the power of the actors to play them as unlikable as one possibly could. One can feel the disgust that the owners had for their labour and how they considered their employees mere slaves who only exist to make them a profit.
The film’s brutal ending not only highlights the complete disregard of law during that time but also the horrific nature of man to stoop to any depths for a meagre share of improved profits. The working class has always been marginalised and hammered by those with money and even today, the upper classes have found new creative ways to keep the masses poor and hungry. Leaving the Factory is thus a cautionary tale of how the elite will always try to keep workers in line and it is up to the masses to unite, organise and demand better remunerations.
Director Crucitelli strives to keep the narrative engaging and she manages to do a great job in this regard. We initially see ourselves in Marina who is our window into the desolate world but through Marina, we begin to identify with all of the women in the factory. The script throws a slew of unexpected consequences in the protagonists’ way and the cat and mouse game of patience between the owners and the workers goes off in a direction that few will anticipate.
The cinematography and set design are perfect, both from a literal and thematic point of view. The cramped working conditions in the basement refer to how the women are controlled; this is in contrast to the well designed and spacious upper cabin for the bosses to relax and bark orders from. This really shows how deep the divide between the classes are; the women are slaving away for a chance to feed their families and the boss insists on extracting more labour from them regardless. To summarise, ‘Leaving the Factory’ is a potent and powerful drama that succeeds with its themes of resilience and justice. This is a timeless film, one that needs to be appreciated for how much it gets right about the struggle between the haves and the have nots.