The Golden Thread (2022) Bergamo Film Meeting

March 13th, 2024
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Nishtha Jain | Doc 90′

The Jute industry has been the mainstay of millions of Bengalis for hundreds of years but is now in a state of decline putting their livelihoods in jeopardy.

In artfully composed shots Nishtha Jain’s documentary exposé examines the relationship between factory and labour in an industry which has come under pressure due to the switchover to plastics. The Golden Thread transports us from the peaceful riversides of West Bengal, where the green canes of jute grow in abundance, to the two largest jute factories in the Indian region around Kolkata where the plant is woven into material. 

The Golden Thread could easily be set in the 18th century but this is modern day West Bengal. The camera follows hot on the heels of workers arriving by bike at the vast Naihati Jute Mills where the dried jute is being stored in bundles before it reaches the massive weaving looms. The frenzied din of spinning soon takes over and then cuts back to the peace and tranquility of a muddy riverside where a man in a large straw hat is cutting down green canes in preparation for drying. 

Although the heyday is over for the jute industry, Naihati is proud to announce “we manufacture environment friendly jute… which includes food grade jute products (hydrocarbon free) and geo-textiles”. State aid has kept this sustainable alternative to plastic going but the future looks bleak despite the eco potential of jute.

The challenge to survive continues for many Bengali labourers who still rely on the factory to support themselves and their families despite poor working conditions. Accidents and jammed machines are a frequent occurrence. Grievances, hopes and fears are aired and compete with the din of the whirring spinning machines. The workers’ plight is taken up by the unions who are fighting to raise pay to a minimum wage requirement of £200 a month and improve conditions in general. It’s a familiar story of quality over production that connects to a global narrative of struggling traditional industries and communities all over the world. @MeredithTaylor


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