During the week with Silvia Federici (26-29 October) it became clear how relevant the theme of the film Nightcleaners (1975, Berwick Street Collective) is for the current situation of many teleworkers, who have to combine their job with care work. Therefore, in this fifth edition of the Syllabus reading group we exceptionally do not read a text, but instead Art Cinema OFFoff makes an online screening of this film possible. In Nightcleaners we see cleaners with a job during the night and a dayshift in care tasks. These women, Irish migrants in the England of 1972, get only two hours of sleep per night.
The film is introduced by Silvia Federici in conversation with artist Jesse Jones. The screening is hosted by Art Cinema OFFoff, Ghent University and Kunsthal Gent.
Nightcleaners was created by the Berwick Street Collective consisting of Marc Karlin, Mary Kelly, James Scott and Humphry Trevelyan. The collective can be seen as the avant-garde of the British documentary film of the 1970s with inspirations like Jean-Luc Godard and Chris Marker. Their films deal with political and cultural issues such as the conflict between underrepresented working class communities or the political hierarchies within trade unions and governments.
The film was originally intended as a campaign film to unite underpaid women who clean office buildings at night. The Berwick Street Collective changed the original form of the film as they perceived the complexity of the campaign and the different relationships and interactions within the groups. The result is a reflexive film in which the investigation of cinematic representation is part of the structure and purpose of the film itself.
Marc Karlin calls it a film “about distances”. “The film was about the distance between us and the nightcleaners, between the women’s movement and the nightcleaners, and was choreographing a situation in which communication was absolutely near enough impossible.”