(during all of this week, Screen Comment’s Eric Althoff gives readers his take on the choicest films from the 2020 crop of AFI Docs, the world’s premier documentary film festival which took place online this year due to the coronavirus)
Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, who won last year’s Oscar for best documentary for their film “American Factory,” are back to shine their cameras on a largely forgotten chapter of the labor movement of the last century—and yes, one that inspired a certain movie.
We learn early on in “9to5: The Story of a Movement” that women composed the vast majority of secretarial jobs at one point but were paid a fraction of their male colleagues. To say nothing of the rampant issue of on-the-job sexual harassment (to underscore this, clips of “Mad Men” are included). Activism is a ground-up activity, and many of the originators of the 9 to 5 movement are interviewed now, looking back at the ups, downs, triumphs and defeats of trying to both organize and unionize, often with askance male sneers (many of the vintage clips are cringeworthy).
Jane Fonda is interviewed as well, reflecting on how it was the movement that inspired the film she starred in with Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton, and also shares how some of the many revenge fantasies they heard from female office workers were too dark, even for that early-eighties comedy.
Inspiring and enlightening, but the documentary’s subjects continue to impress upon the viewer that as far as we’ve come, much is yet to be done, still.