Behind the scenes of the factories

By Audrey SomnardMike Zenari Switch to French for original article

Far from clichés and pure nostalgia, the documentary filmmaker Emmanuel Graff looked behind the scenes of the steel and mining factories. Between solidarity, mutual aid, resourcefulness, mowing and tinkering. The film L'usine secrète (The Secret Factory) looks at the actions of a generation of workers in France and Luxembourg.

Emmanuel Graff is a documentary filmmaker specializing in the working class within the Greater Region. In his third documentary, L'Usine secrète, which will be broadcast during the Esch 2022 festivities, the director looks at the underbelly and the prohibitions in the factories and mines. Moving encounters with workers of the old and new generations who tell stories that they have sometimes never told to their own families.

With a career of more than thirty years dedicated to documentaries, Emmanuel Graff constantly tries to renew the exercise with a different point of view. The more time passes, the more witnesses disappear and the documentary becomes a nostalgia that is completely outdated and only understood by those who experienced it. How can we find a new approach so that those who are not concerned can be interested in a subject that seems dusty and historical? How to make the workers of the time familiar and close to us? The filmmaker thought he had done it all. "The idea was always in the back of my mind to be able to talk about what was forbidden and everything that was done secretly in the factory", he says during a recent visit to Belval.

Emmanuel Graff is originally from the Thionville region, but his interest in the working world has nothing to do with his family roots: "My family were small craftsmen, civil servants. My hypothesis was that not coming from that background made me curious because I lived in the middle of it all, but I didn't have the codes". Surrounded by factory workers, if he didn't this world, he necessarily rubbed shoulders with it indirectly. To approach the workers for his interviews for his various documentaries, he called upon his network.

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