The Ballad of Tita and the Machines
Oct 4, 2023
Miguel Angel Caballero
Miguel Angel Caballero & Luis Antonio Aldana
Laura Patalano, Luis Antonio Aldana, Nico Greetham
NEW TO UK FILM REVIEW
Critics Chris Olson and Brian Penn host UK Film Club - a new film podcast covering all film types. From blockbusters to old favourites and even indie & shorts.
Indeed Rising Voices presents filmmaker Miguel Angel Caballero and his short film The Ballad of Tita and the Machines, featuring an older woman’s fight to keep her job.
When Tita, an elderly queer fieldworker is threatened to be made redundant from her job, she reluctantly hires a humanoid to fill in for her at work and pick strawberries. However, she quickly attracts the engineers’ attention because their humanoids are unable to perform Tita’s back-breaking work. Ultimately, this is a film that explores how technology is interacting and even interrogating the human workforce around the world - especially in key industries.
This film is truly a homage to Caballero’s heritage as the son of Mexican immigrant farmworkers. We open on a farm stretching across the landscape and witness the laborious job of fruit picking, whilst feeling a deep sense of sympathy for an aging woman who still craves purpose, but is fighting being phased out. The camera flits around as a keen observer, excited by the technology but also apprehensive of it, and so is keen not to reveal too much.
What the engineers cannot understand is why Tita is better than all of the humanoids combined. Why are they unable to perform her job role? The film hints at how all manual labour and physically demanding jobs cannot be replicated by the robots.
There are a lot of current social issues at play here that all weave together effectively, particularly concerning the debate over if artificial intelligence (AI) will replace human workforces, or make some jobs obsolete. However, Caballero makes the striking point that AI and humanoid-like machines do not have the advantages of human connection and so are unable to be superior in certain instances.
More generally, film has offered viewers a hard look at what AI is, or could, become. From The Matrix, to Ex Machina, these digital tools are often portrayed in a wide variety of ways, as either a hero or a threat to humanity. Films have also explored how AI can be used by humans with bad intentions as they desire to exploit others. Caballero considers all of these themes within his short film, as a kind and unassuming woman is placed in the centre of the debate.
The story offers a futuristic look into how machines could become even more integrated into life as we know it. The technology conceptualized within this short film is very well actualized with clever special effects that actually look and feel realistic and provide insight into a haunting reality that we could recognize one day.
Tita perhaps symbolizes that no machine could ever fully replicate humanity, or human connection, but it does offer the viewer a look at what life could become if machine learning tools continue to develop. Will this be what future generations will come to know of AI? Should we treat it as friend or foe?
Through a striking storyline and emotive performances, Caballero’s film suggests that for now, perhaps some jobs are safe from AI.
At least, for now.
Miguel Angel Caballero is an award-winning Queer Mexican-American-Chicano writer, producer and director.