New labor rights and sustainability film series premiering

Peter Boger and Marchella Verdi
January 16, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State's Sustainability Institute and the Center for Global Workers’ Rights are teaming up to bring a new film series to the University Park campus in Spring 2019. The series, titled "Intersections: Landscapes of Labor," highlights the connections between workers’ rights, social justice and sustainability.

“Too often, students assume sustainability is only about recycling,” noted Peter Boger, Sustainability Institute assistant director for community outreach and engagement . “But a sustainable future requires just as much focus on human welfare and non-exploitative economies as it does on environmental issues. We hope this film series will expand the sustainability community at Penn State by helping people see the intersections between environmental and social justice.”

The series is kicking off with a screening of the film "Sorry to Bother You" (2018, dir. Boots Riley) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 22, in 112 Kern. A disturbing, genre-defying satire, the Oakland-based film is set in the world of modern call centers. The film will be introduced by Charles Lumpkins, assistant teaching professor of labor and employment relations and African-American studies. The screening is part of Penn State’s 34th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration. Please note that "Sorry to Bother You" is rated R for language, disturbing situations and brief nudity.

“Boots Riley’s highly original and darkly humorous 'Sorry to Bother You' depicts the pervasive nature of modern-day capitalism through a scathing critique of racial appropriation,” said Kate Maich, assistant professor of labor and employment relations and faculty affiliate of the Center for Global Workers' Rights. “The film reminds us how deeply intertwined racism and labor exploitation are and yet also showcases opportunities for resistance and cross-class, race and gender solidarity.”

One of the goals of the series is not only to use films to promote greater awareness but also to build community and action around labor rights and sustainability. The series aims to create a space where people don't just watch films but also connect with one another and imagine possibilities for collectively effecting change. Additional campus departments, student groups and community organizations are welcome to co-sponsor individual films in the series and to share through these screenings their work that addresses social justice issues.

The SI also aims to use the film series to promote the global Sustainable Development Goals and their comprehensive approach to sustainability that Penn State uses as its basis for incorporating sustainability into teaching, research, operations and outreach. Ratified by more than 190 nations in 2015, the 17 SDGs set a bold plan for tying together priorities like clean air and clean water with global efforts to achieve an end to poverty, create sustainable economic development, guarantee equality and address climate change.

The remaining films planned for the series will all screen on Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. in 132 HUB-Robeson Center:

"The Organizer" (1963, directed by Mario Monicelli) –  Tuesday, Feb. 19

Set in the late 1800s in Turin, Italy, this moving, Academy Award-nominated drama details the efforts of textile workers to strike for many of the basic working conditions modern employees take for granted -- shorter workdays, insurance for on-the-job accidents -- that are rapidly in danger of again disappearing from the workplace.

"The Second Mother" (2015, directed by Anna Muylaert) – Tuesday, March 19

What are the true costs of domestic labor and who actually pays them? This Sundance Award-winning film profiles one Brazilian housekeeper and the sacrifices she ultimately makes for her family.

"Pride" (2014, directed by Matthew Warchus) – Tuesday, April 23

Also based on a true story, this engaging comic drama looks at a group of British gay rights activists in 1984, who supported the work of striking coal miners and built solidarity with the National Union of Mineworkers. As a result, mineworkers began supporting gay rights in Great Britain.

All film screenings are shown unrated and are free and open to the public without advanced tickets. Parking can be found in the Nittany Parking Deck for the Jan. 22 screening and in the HUB Parking Deck for the remaining screenings. 

For more information about the series or if you are interested in co-sponsoring future films and related activities, contact Peter Boger at pgb45@psu.edu or Manuel Rosaldo at mxr1225@psu.edu

  • The 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals

    As part of the film series, the Sustainability Institute will highlight the 17 global Sustainable Development Goals, which are building coalitions to address issues of human welfare, economic development and environmental protection simultaneously and which form the basis of Penn State's approach to sustainability.

    IMAGE: Courtesy of the United Nations
Last Updated February 14, 2019