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Still from They Will Have to Kill Us First: Malian Music In Exile, directed by Johanna Schwartz (image via

Major film festivals have become expensive, high-profile affairs, but, as its name suggests, the Workers Unite Film Festival is meant “for the 99%.” Now in its sixth edition, Workers Unite showcases documentaries, fictional features, and shorts by professional directors and students alike. The goal is to promote and celebrate global labor solidarity through film.

This year’s offerings are wide ranging, from James Franco’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s In Dubious Battle, about apple pickers in California in the 1930s; to They Will Have to Kill Us First: Malian Music In Exile, a documentary about musicians in Mali dealing with a jihadist takeover; to a screening of two silent films from 1920 by pioneering African American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. There are short documentaries devoted to one of the last remaining skywriting families, female taxi drivers in New Delhi, Civil Rights leader Rev. Jim Lawson, sex workers in Nicaragua, celebrity impersonators, and the oil towns of western North Dakota. One film follows NYC’s first openly transgender firefighter; another tells the story of Syrian and Palestinian refugees who, with the help of a group of Italians, traveled from Italy to Sweden dressed as a bridal party.

Workers Unite seems to have films programmed for every cause you might care about. In the spirit of May Day and the anti-Trump resistance, it’s a good time to watch, learn, and be inspired.

When: May 5–25 (times and ticket prices vary; most programs $10)
Where: Cinema Village (22 East 12th Street, Greenwich Village, Manhattan), Empire State College (325 Hudson Street, Hudson Square, Manhattan), and other locations throughout New York City

More info here.

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Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...