Control of the labor market appears dry. But there’s no shortage of human drama in Ulrich Grossenbacher’s documentary marvel.
Rarely is the documentary Quantitative Takedown as quick and straightforward as Grossenbacher’s Illegal Act. The men (and one woman) who dominate the labor market in Berne are a big world unto themselves.
Difficult but fair?
Always in pairs, always unannounced: in restaurant kitchens, on construction sites, always with the task of determining if all workers encountered are working legally and getting paid. In the constant fight against wage dumping, exploitation and the destruction of the social achievements of our ancestors, they are at first the “good guys”.
However, since they always have to start from the bottom, with poor working conditions often ‘black’, every successful job – that is, every job in which they encounter irregular work assignments – becomes a human drama in a matter of seconds.
Unauthorized workers as collateral damage
The utterly distraught Macedonian, who came to Switzerland on a tourist visa and now gets a few black francs as a carpenter on a lone construction site, is not a target for the inspectors.
It’s the collateral damage, especially when the gentlemen have to hand him over to the cantonal police for weaving inexcusable slanders of lies for the sake of sheer desperation. He cannot identify himself.
But Ulrich Grossenbacher («Messies, ein schön Chaos», 2011) does not leave you long to focus on one perspective. The inspectors accompanying them are characters with many years of experience and very different backgrounds.
There is a member of the guild family who just doesn’t know exactly what he is fighting for and against whom. But also the other, the ex-cop, who constantly provokes his colleagues in a friendly manner with his attitude of law and order and acts as if the Tamils are shivering in the darkness of the basement, terrified, they cannot touch his heart below.
The new female colleague, a little upset, explains that, unlike the male applicants, she did not have to undergo a difficult test, and it seemed that they only needed a woman.
From Corrado Pardini to Regula Rytz
In contrast to the five Bern labor market watch inspectors (Freddy Geyser, Regula Eschbacher, Marcus Figo, Stefan Hurt, Christoph Zag), Grossenbacher edited speeches and political discussions with trade unionist and former national advisor Corrado Bardini or words from Regula Rytz and Ignazio Cassis.
These situations are evident everywhere and with all people it is between surprising and attractive. To be able to accompany people in this business and even photograph them, it will probably take a lot of effort and confidence.
Efforts, communication skills, and confidence-building measures must be much greater than those who face the biggest dilemma in these sometimes very intense sequences: unauthorized exploited workers, and their capture.
Grossenbacher’s “Moonlight” is one of the almost perfect documentary miracles that, on the one hand, take a clear position, but on the other hand depict such a wide spectrum that the idea of objectivity is preserved.
At the same time, the political and educational element is so beautifully wrapped in human drama that no one wants to escape the stories.
“Undercover work” could become as fruitful and popular for current political discussion as Jane Stefan Brunn’s “Mais im Bundeshuus” 20 years ago.
Theatrical release: April 28, 2022