Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Last Truck

Having grown up in a small factory town, it was only too easy to relate to the plight of the workers profiled in HBO's The Last Truck : Closing of a GM Plant. For a factory worker whose loyalty often spans many generations, the closing of a plant becomes much bigger than merely losing a job. It is a betrayal of trust almost akin to being disowned and disinherited from one's family.

The factory is an extension of home, co-workers are like kin, life at work and after it is often deeply intertwined. Many have not experienced life in the world outside the factory town and are fearful of being forced to take it on now that they are left with no options. Armed with a high-school diploma, decades of experience in a field where are no jobs anymore, they are ill-equipped for the challenges that lay ahead of them. The closing of a factory does not only deprive them of their livelihood but it destroys their sense of self.

Many if not all the workers the interviewer follows through the last few weeks before plant closing are in tears as they recall the life they have had so far and contemplate what it will be like once the last truck rolls off the assembly line. They wonder why their unyielding hard work, the pride and joy they felt in doing their part in building these trucks does not amount to anything in the end. They wonder why America refuses to do more to help its own. The media blames it all on the unions, the union workers don't agree with that assessment- even the money they are reported to make they say is hugely exaggerated.

This film is a stark and unadorned portrayal of what it means to have achieved the American Dream and then lose it, to have had a chance to better one's lot in life and then know that one's children and grandchildren will not have the same opportunities. As the factory breathes it last, so does a certain way of life for thousands of people who had come to depend on it for generations.

Here is a trailer for the film which will first air on HBO on Labor Day.

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