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Wapping - The Workers' Story Documentary Review


Directed by: Chris Reeves

Starring: Celia Allen, Marie Alvarado


What happened at Wapping in January of 1986 is downright tragic and woebegone. It was the fateful month and year when 6000 workers were sacked by Rupert Murdoch. None of the employees expected to be confronted by this tragedy. In Chris Reeves’ Wapping - The Workers’ Story, you would hear an admission of innocence. A worker says that they were naive and never anticipated that Murdoch would end up taking such a step. What did he do? He moved the production of his newspapers from central London’s Fleet Street to Wapping. It was an overnight decision that was set up slowly and secretly.

A new facility meant new technology. The Wapping office didn’t require print union workers who used the hot-metal Linotype method to print. Instead, modern computers were installed, which allowed journalists to input copy directly. These machines reduced the workers to disposable beings. Left without a job and insufficient money, the workers, gathered and protested against the injustice. If you are aware of this incident, you would know the protest lasted for over a year until February 1987. It collapsed and yielded unsuccessful results.

Wapping - The Workers’ Story explores the aforementioned event through the words of the workers who lived and participated in the demonstration. They recollect with pain how adverse those times were for them and many innocent bystanders. For example, one of the interviewees remembers seeing a baton go up in slow motion and then hitting a woman. Her crime? She had just stood there looking lost and worried. That’s it. The documentary consists of such personal and moving reminiscences. These are strengthened by the mournful tones emitted from every speaker as if they had recently experienced the altercation. These people have a vivid memory of the violence and unfairness inflicted on them, and they don’t want the world to forget about it.

Not all memories are gloomy. One of them in which a lion’s piss is collected from the London Zoo to repulse the horses of the police makes you laugh. Wapping - The Workers’ Story opens with chaos and then steadily provides details leading to its eruption. The people are still haunted by the aggressive echoes of the protest, and you sense that pain occasionally in their words. This is one of those documentaries that drives you to read more about its topic.



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