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  • Amir Ganjavie

The Assistant, A Sublime Example Of A Democratic Vision In Filmmaking In American Independent Cinema

Updated: Apr 5, 2020

By: Amir Ganjavie

Privatization in workspaces, and the subsequent undemocratic decisions which arise, have become a serious challenge of contemporary liberal democracy. Privatization in a workspace basically means to create a space in which the life and fate of employees will be controlled and run by the owners of the private companies, based on their internal/private whims, rules and regulations. In these situations, decisions will be based on the economic interest of the company, with a clear preference of economic interest over the constitutional rights in the case of conflict in the working conditions. The Assistant is an outstanding film in showing the privatization and its threats to democracy; it follows one day in the life of a young girl working in a film production company, not far from the image of working condition for women at Miramax. The girl loves cinema but the working atmosphere in the company is not what she was hoping for. Confronted with the presence of sexism in her environment, she cannot easily complain about it. She is not included in the decision-making meetings held behind closed doors, and her knowledge of what is going on is partial. She is a newcomer in the game, and she is not included in the friendship bonding in the company. The Assistant , marvelously demonstrates that a private company can follow its own rules, regulations, and internal friendship circles, which lead to discrimination against and exploitations of its personnel, and employees. Although the company’s CEO might act as a king or an invisible god, but the whole system is at fault; the system, which, by using the companies’ own corrupt rules and its own internal power structure does not let its personnel to fight the system or to file complaints. As the film shows, the society is a liberal democracy but a private company could force a dictatorship on its employees, with very limited possibility to apply the governmental rules in its structure. In fact, it is a private company that follows its own secret financial rules and this gives the company power to force things on those who work for it without having any obligation to answer to anyone; the governments avoid direct confrontation with the company as it might violate the “holy” laws of free market. The Assistant is a film that is made with a minimal aestheticism but it is embedded with a democratic touch. It plays with silence; it refuses to directly explain or shown things. One can see the use of subjective mode of narration in the film and it focuses on the girl’s mind, as each time that the camera enters a scene where she is talking to someone, we do not see that person. If she is on a phone call and she gets distracted, the audience also cannot understand what her initial conversation was about. The film thus has created a cold atmosphere, which is amplified by the protagonist’s performance. The facial features of the girl avoid transferring any emotions; it’s not a photogenic face that carries a special meaning. This is a film free of any preachy messages; the audience is only faced with a series of incidents and sets of minute details, which must be put together to reach the “democratic” understanding behind the film. It is a powerful example of educative cinema that let the “audience” enjoy the joy of understanding. We are experiencing a sublime example of a democratic vision in filmmaking in American Independent Cinema.

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