Accepted paper:

Work on screen: corporate films and workers' memories in a Portuguese de-industrialized town


Frédéric Vidal
Joao Rosas
Emília Marques (Lisbon University Institute / CRIAnthropology)
Luísa Veloso (ISCTE - Instituto Universitário de Lisboa)

Paper short abstract:

Industrial workers to whom we showed a dozen of old corporate films, as part of a research on work and cinema, strongly identified with them to reconstruct their own work memories, prompting a reflection on the complex relationship between corporate narratives and worker's memories and identities.

Paper long abstract:

This proposal stems from an ongoing collective, multidisciplinary research on the ways work was construed and displayed in a corpus of Portuguese institutional XXth century films. These were commissioned by diverse state agencies, by film cooperatives (after the fall of the dictatorship in 1974) or by businesses. As part of our research, and tackling the ways these films may (have) impact(ed) on social memories and identities of work, we selected a dozen of them, commissioned by one of the most powerful pre-1974 Portuguese economic and industrial groups (CUF), and scheduled their public screening in the former quasi company town where they had been shot (Barreiro). Both during the screenings and when post-screening interviewed, former CUF workers strongly identified with those films to reconstruct their memories of work in the company. Not only did people develop a noticeable interest for the films, but they tended to see them as descriptions fitting their own memories. The films were took at face value, in spite of the social and ideological context that had shaped their production and use during the dictatorship period. In a context of de-industrialization and unemployment, the narrative of work, employment and social progress carried by the films acquires a renewed appeal. Also, the widespread heritage‑ization of the local pasts may contribute to a re-framing of these films as common heritage rather than company propaganda. Overall, the relationship between the dominant narratives and the peoples' memories emerged as a quite interesting analytical domain in this research.

panel Heri014
Heritage of silenced memories