Infrastructure Films (2019)

Compiled Aug, 2019 by Ashley Carse based on others’ Twitter recommendations

Contact:, Twitter: @acarse

Original thread:

This list of films is intended as a resource for anyone and everyone interested in infrastructure and society, broadly defined. I compiled it based on recommendations that others made in response to my tweet on 14 Aug 2019: “#Infrastructure folks: What are your favorite films about infrastructure and society (or culture, politics, gender, etc.)? I'm asking for teaching purposes, so I'd particularly like films that are compelling and less than 75 minutes.” I received so many interesting responses - new and old, from all around the world - that I thought it would be useful to put them all together in a single document for others to make use of. If you would like to add something, the comments feature is enabled here or you can add to the twitter thread.

Enjoy, Ashley

General Resources


A Dream of Iron

Recommended by:@bamendelsohn

Comment: Shipmaking and ideologies of port management // technology in Seoul - I have a copy of this (and most of my other suggestions)

Synopsis: A love story comes to an end when a woman sets out in search of a shamanic god. Director Kelvin Kyung Kun Park takes the trauma of a spurned lover as the starting point for his own search for a god. He makes several finds across various narrative strands – among whales in the sea, in a shipyard, at a steelworks. All of them are giants of their respective times: vast, sublime, godlike. Park's imagery also evokes the divine: embers and steel, sparks and fire; people dwarved by huge cogwheels, robbed of their individuality. A brave new world in which workers produce modern industrial goods, even as industry has long since been producing the modern worker. Work is a god we have submitted to. Yet every existence is temporary and fleeting, which applies in equal measure to both relationships and gods.

A Most Violent Year

Recommended by: @nate_millington

Comment: Not really what you're looking for, but I rewatched A Most Violent Year last night and it is such a great infrastructure film. So many overlapping systems.

Synopsis: A MOST VIOLENT YEAR is a searing crime drama set in New York City during the winter of 1981, statistically the most dangerous year in the city’s history. From acclaimed writer/director J.C. Chandor, and starring Oscar Isaac (INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS) and Jessica Chastain (ZERO DARK THIRTY), this gripping story plays out within a maze of rampant political and industry corruption plaguing the streets of a city in decay. J.C. Chandor’s third feature examines one immigrant’s determined climb up a morally crooked ladder, where simmering rivalries and unprovoked attacks threaten his business, family, and––above all––his unwavering belief in the righteousness of his own path.

A Short History of the Highrise

Recommended by: @gflahive

Synopsis: A Short History of the Highrise is an interactive documentary that explores the 2,500-year global history of vertical living and issues of social equality in an increasingly urbanized world. The centerpiece of the project is four short films. The first three (“Mud,” “Concrete” and “Glass”) draw on the New York Times’s extraordinary visual archives, a repository of millions of photographs that have largely been unseen in decades. Each film is intended to evoke a chapter in a storybook, with rhyming narration and photographs brought to life with intricate animation. The fourth chapter (“Home”) comprises images submitted by the public. The interactive experience incorporates the films and, like a visual accordion, allows viewers to dig deeper into the project’s themes with additional archival materials, text and miniature games. On tablets, viewers can navigate the story extras and special features within the films using touch commands like swipe, pinch, pull and tap. On desktop and laptop computers, users can mouse over features and click to navigate. Smartphone users can view the four films.

Alice in the Cities

Recommended by: @VaneBailo

Comment: I love Alice in the Cities because it has an infrastructure flavour.

Synopsis: [Criterion] The first of the road films that would come to define the career of Wim Wenders, the magnificent Alice in the Cities is an emotionally generous and luminously shot odyssey. A German journalist (Rüdiger Vogler) is driving across the United States to research an article; it’s a disappointing trip, in which he is unable to truly connect with what he sees. Things change, however, when he has no choice but to take a young girl named Alice (Yella Rottländer) with him on his return trip to Germany, after her mother (Lisa Kreuzer)—whom he has just met—leaves the child in his care. Though they initially find themselves at odds, the pair begin to form an unlikely friendship.

As You See (Wie man sieht) (Harun Farocki, 1987, 72 minutes)

Recommended by:@aphid23

Comment: Intersections (literal ones, too) of automation and transportation, militarism and industry.  A bit all over the place, but deep and poetic.

Atash (Tawfik Abu Wael)

Recommended by: @hannahkateboast

Comment: Tawfik Abu Wael's Atash is about citizenship, gender and water infrastructure among Palestinians in Israel. It's compelling in a slow burn way but think it's around two hours. Manal Massalha did a great thesis on urban politics in Umm Al Fahem that you could use part of as context.

Synopsis: [IMDB] “A family of five, their two goats and donkey live in the middle of nowhere far from their village home. They earn meager living by producing & selling charcoal, made from the surrounding trees. The father and son are the only ones who ever return to their native village. The Mother & two daughters have not left this place since the day they abandoned home, 10 years ago. One day the father decides to provide running water for the family by illegally diverting water onto their land. The three women recoil from the idea but the teenage son obeys submissively anything to be allowed to continue attending school. The water surging through the pipe parallels the surging resentment the family feels towards the father. He brought them to this place against their will and they know the reason they left their home is also the reason they can never return, but the newly free-flowing water on their land re-awakens the instinctive desire for freedom they have been repressing all these years.”

The Bamboo Bridge (@juanbatfran)

Recommended by:@Sophie_LH

Long Trailer:

Comment: :I'm not sure it's quite released yet (?) but previews of @juanbatfran 's The Bamboo Bridge look great.

Synopsis: As the longest bamboo bridge in the world is dismantled for the last time, three generations of Cambodian bridge-builders share its stories from the past and its lessons for the future.

Filmmaker (@juanbatfran) writes: Thanks @Sophie_LH @acarse - #TheBambooBridge premiers on 22 October at @antennafestival in Sydney and then (hopefully) off to IDFA and @cphdox and .....@MatadoraFilms. Sneak preview this coming Tue 20 at @austmus with a talk with #KatherineGibson

Banlieue 13 (District B13)

Recommended by: @joshuaclov3r

Comment: Missed this first time round; can I suggest District B13 (Banlieue 13), maybe my fave of the genre, w the immortal line "C’est vrai que ça ne fait pas partie de mon éducation, moi on m’a appris Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité - L’Eau, le Gaz, l’Electricité!"

Synopsis: (Wikipedia) District 13 (French title Banlieue 13 or B13), is a 2004 French action film directed by Pierre Morel and written and produced by Luc Besson.[5] The film is notable for its depiction of parkour in a number of stunt sequences that were completed without the use of wires or computer generated effects. Because of this, some film critics have drawn comparisons to the popular Thai film Ong-Bak.[6][7][8] David Belle, regarded as the founder of parkour, plays Leïto, one of the story's protagonists.

Berlin Babylon (2001, 88 min)

Recommended by: @mediapathic

Comment: Just tonight watched _Berlin Babylon_ and recommend it. It's a document about the reconstruction of Berlin in the 90s, mostly jumping around in time following people discussing things and/or pouring concrete. Plus, soundtrack by Einstürzende Neubauten if that's your thing!

Synopsis: {IMDB} “Berlin after the Wall came down. Observations on radical reconstruction of a city core. Images of the conflict between the thirst for demolition and the hunger for completion.”

Bhavesh Joshi Superhero

Recommended by:@maliniranga, @skishchampi

Comment: Bhavesh Joshi Superhero is a Hindi film about the water mafia, but is wrapped up with a middle class narrative about vigilantes fighting corruption. It’s long though, Bollywood style

Black Sea Files (2005, 43 min)

Recommended by: @dubravka


Blocul (The Block) (@MariaSalaru)

Recommended by:@Sophie_LH

Comment: on social and material relations/maintenance in a Romanian apartment building

Synopsis: From neighbourly disputes over garlic-heavy cooking to memories of Ceaușescu’s heatless winters, this film explores the rich social and material universe of a Romanian apartment building. It follows the story of the block’s administrator, in his effort to mediate relationships between neighbours and maintain peace and order. In doing so, it crayons the rich nuances of the inhabitants’ everyday lives. The block comes to life, as its inhabitants constantly reshape it to defy the passing of time, while its failing infrastructure encroaches on their neighbourly relations. This is a film about people’s homes, and the spaces in between. In those spaces, the pipes don’t only carry hot water – they carry meanings from one inhabitant to the next.

Burning in the Sun

Recommended by:@ariaritz

Comment: Ok ok one more—Burning in the Sun. On solar energy in a community in Mali.

El Buzo (The Diver) (16 minutes)

Recommended by:@naomischiller, @AlexDeCoss

Comment: Brilliant, gorgeous, perfectly short film (16 min) about a diver who services Mexico City’s sewage system



Recommended by:@STS_News, @mCenterDrexel, @benjaminhfinch1, @adamcallroberts

Cities of Sleep (Shaunak Sen)

Recommended by: @TanviBhatkal

Comment: We did a film series on infrastructure, would recommend: Liquid City (Matthew Gandy), Cities of Sleep (Shaunak Sen), Workers Leaving the Factory (Harun Farocki), Letter to Uncle Boonmee (Apichatpong Weerasethakul), Nostalgia for the Future (Rohan Shivkumar+Avjit Kishore)

The Cleaners (2018)

Recommended by: @ubiquity75

Connections (Episode 1 “The Trigger Effect”)

Recommended by: @farbandish

Comment: Omg the first episode of the BBC TV show ‘connections’ from the 70s.

Synopsis: "The Trigger Effect" details the world's present dependence on complex technological networks through a detailed narrative of New York City and the power blackout of 1965. Agricultural technology is traced to its origins in ancient Egypt and the invention of the plough. The segment ends in Kuwait where, because of oil, society leapt from traditional patterns to advanced technology in a period of only about 30 years.

Dark Days  (2000, Marc Singer)

Recommended by: @acarse

Synopsis: Documentary film focused on a group of people living in an abandoned section of the New York City Subway system, more specifically the area of Freedom Tunnel.

Detropia (2012)

Recommended by: @ubiquity75

Drawing Rights (Rachel O’Reilly)

Recommended by: @LeaverYap

Synopsis: Rachel O’Reilly’s “Drawing Rights” film. It uses graphics generated from drawings, corporate plans, and activist drone footage of fracking wells, to narrate the racism of Australian property laws that precede the ease of ‘unconventional extraction’.

Ekümenopolis (İmre Azem)

Recommended by:@kitabet

Comment: there's some good infrastructure content in İmre Azem's Ekümenopolis

En el Hoyo (Juan Carlos Rulfo, 2006, 84 min)

Recommended by: @AlexDeCoss

Comment: I saw someone already mentioned 'El Buzo' and, on the same intersection of labour and infrastructure, I'd say that 'En el hoyo', by Juan Carlos Rulfo, is another good film.

Synopsis: Una leyenda mexicana cuenta que el diablo pide almas para que los puentes, al construirse, no se caigan. Esta película sigue la historia de varios de los obreros que participan en la construcción del llamado "Segundo piso" en el Periférico de la Ciudad de México. Aunque en realidad todo esto es un puro pretexto, la idea es la de acercarnos a la cotidianidad, a los sueños y a la extraordinaria dignidad para vivir el humor, el romance y los pequeños momentos que culminarán en el alimento que el diablo necesita para que ese puente permanezca de pie.

La Estrategia del Caracol (The Strategy of the Snail)

Recommended by:@acorsin

Comment: Delightful and brilliant film about urban informality and infrastructure

Fetch a Pail of Water (Jeffrey Jeturian / 1999)

Recommended by: @ksaguin


Recommended by:@soundbitelife

The Forgotten Space (2010, Allan Sekula)

Recommended by: SIMMASIMMA4

Stream at Amazon:

Comment: “Essay-film on global logistics - containerisation and shipping. I like how Sekula & Burch uses the container as a focal point for the narrative in the film. The focalization is fixed yet fluid because it moves with logistical infrastructures of global capital that the film is trying to visualize: which really worked for me :)”

Synopsis: [IMDB] “Details the catastrophic effects globalization has wrought on the ship, truck and train industries. We visit displaced farmers and villagers in Holland and Belgium, underpaid truck drivers in Los Angeles, seafarers aboard mega-ships shuttling between Asia and Europe, and factory workers in China, whose low wages are the fragile key to the whole puzzle. At a moment when collective bargaining rights are under attack in the United States, and China continues to bow to foreign pressures to prevent such rights from being granted at all, this film asks: Is capitalism the Trojan horse that turns on its inventors?”

Going Postal

Recommended by: @cahutchins

Comment: “I would recommend Going Postal (2010), originally a Sky1 miniseries. A comedic fantasy adapted from the Discworld book series about the war between a haunted postal service and a new steampunk telegraph system.”

Gojira (Godzilla) (1954)

Recommended by:@dennissinned71

Synopsis: American nuclear weapons testing results in the creation of a seemingly unstoppable, dinosaur-like beast.

The Great American Traffic Jam

Recommended by: @BobGradeck

Comment: Nothing more compelling than Ed McMahon and Rue McLanahan in the ensemble cast in this made for TV winner “The Great American Traffic Jam”

The Hole (Tsai Ming-liang / 1998)

Recommended by: @ksaguin


Recommended by: @deanchahim

Comment: “It’s a pretty big-budget (lots of aerial shots!) documentary focused on the problem of potable water in Mexico City. I haven’t seen it for a while, but it’s what originally got me interested in doing my dissertation.”

Synopsis: [IMDB] “Can a region of 22 million people become water sustainable? Mexico City was not built near water, but in the middle of a lake. To supply it with fresh water, it is necessary to bring it from other states. In addition, once sewage water leaves the city, it ends up in the state of Hidalgo to be used in agriculture. This is an environmental case study of the Valley of Mexico and its struggles to save itself as the population grows.”

Il Diserto Rosso (Red Desert)·

Recommended by:@AndresDeLipez

Comment: Red desert/il diserto rosso could be interesting

Katiyabaaz (Powerless) (@katiyabaaz)

Recommended by:@bijliabhinav, @FootlooseSri, @frontlineanthro, @AssaDoron, @acarse

Availability: (USA)


Comment: I have used @katiyabaaz for my seminars on urban livelihoods with great response from students. Also another comment: I really like Katiyabaaz on the art of subverting infrastructure (electricity) when the state fails to deliver”

Synopsis: Loha, a 28-year-old katiyabaaz or electricity thief lives in Kanpur, a city of 3 million, which suffers from power cuts that last up to 15 hours. Renowned for his prowess in stealing electricity, he is a robin-hood like figure who steals electricity and charges the rich to provide free connections in impoverished neighborhoods. Ritu, the newly appointed head of the local electricity utility, is working on a mission to eliminate all illegal connections. Her strategy is to reach out to consumers and chalk a new path forward for Kanpur. However, with the Indian summer settling in, the electricity problem takes on crisis proportions, with dire implications on the citizen's lives and livelihoods. A rising politician takes advantage of the people's anger. A picture emerges of a modern dystopia encompassing urban decay. Underlying the localized crisis in Kanpur is the glaring energy poverty in India, where a third of the population is bereft of this basic need, and the rest grapple with power-cuts that dictate their own terms. Powerless puts a lens to an unexplored narrative of one of the world's fastest developing economies

Khosla Ka Ghosla

Recommended by: @FootlooseSri

The Iron Ministry

Recommended by:@ariaritz

Comment: I haven't seen this yet, but it's on my to-watch list, and every other thing I've seen out of Harvard's sensory ethnography lab has been well worth the time:

The Island of St Matthews

Recommended by:@bamendelsohn

Comment: Ashley this is a big ass can of worms you’ve opened. But knowing what you write about I would strongly recommend Kevin Jerome Everson’s THE ISLAND OF ST MATTHEWS

Kakka Muttai (Crow’s Egg)

Recommended by: @niranjwrite

Trailer: Thank you for doing this! If I can still add a suggestion - Tamil movie Kakka Muttai (Crow's Egg). Not quite an infra film, but always thought it spoke volumes about urban change, infrastructural lives, nature as infrastructure, urban verticality…

Synopsis: (Wikipedia) In a tiny concrete-and-tin Chennai home in the slums live two young brothers with their mother and grandmother. With the boys' father in prison for unknown reasons and with an ageing mother-in-law, the mother does her best to keep the kitchen fires burning. The brothers spend their time playing games and stealing and devouring eggs from crows' nests. Their love for these eggs leads them to start calling themselves Periya Kaaka Muttai ('Big Crow Egg') and "Chinna Kaaka Muttai" ('Small Crow Egg').

Last Train Home (Lixin Fan, 2009)

Recommended by:@nisaface

Synopsis: Every spring, China's 130 million migrant workers travel back to their home villages for the New Year's holiday. This exodus is the world's largest human migration. Working over several years, director Lixin Fan travelled with one couple who has embarked on these annual treks for almost two decades. Like many of China's rural poor, the Zhangs left their native village of Huilong, Daan Town [zh], Guang'an District in Sichuan province and their newborn daughter to find work in Guangzhou in a garment factory for 16 years and see her only once a year during the Spring Festival. Their daughter Qin, now a restless and rebellious teenager, resents her parents' absence and longs for her own freedom away from school and her rural hometown, much to the dismay of her parents. She eventually leaves school, against the wishes of her parents, to work in the city.

Lathe Joshi (Mangesh Joshi, 2017)

Recommended by: @rajanprashant

Synopsis: A story about the relationships that members of the Joshi family have with technologies. From the protagonist Vijay, a recently unemployed machinist who is left hopelessly in love with the lathe that he spent much of his life working, to his son who gets into computer maintenance, his wife’s love for the food processor that brings efficiency to her homemade food delivery business, and the grandmother’s love-hate relationship with the TV remote.. This film explores the gamut of relationships between technologies and humans in a lower middle class Mumbai household with attention to detail (just look for the artifacts lovingly held in camera view for each scene).

Trailer with subtitles:

A review here:

Letter to Uncle Boonmee (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

Recommended by: @TanviBhatkal

Comment: We did a film series on infrastructure, would recommend: Liquid City (Matthew Gandy), Cities of Sleep (Shaunak Sen), Workers Leaving the Factory (Harun Farocki), Letter to Uncle Boonmee (Apichatpong Weerasethakul), Nostalgia for the Future (Rohan Shivkumar+Avjit Kishore)

Liquid City (Matthew Gandy)

Recommended by: @TanviBhatkal

Comment: We did a film series on infrastructure, would recommend: Liquid City (Matthew Gandy), Cities of Sleep (Shaunak Sen), Workers Leaving the Factory (Harun Farocki), Letter to Uncle Boonmee (Apichatpong Weerasethakul), Nostalgia for the Future (Rohan Shivkumar+Avjit Kishore)

Locke (2013, Stephen Knight, 85 minutes)

Recommended by: @sheshark

Comment: The best thriller ever made about concrete? Tom Hardy gives a superb performance as a man travelling through the night for personal duty, who must negotiate over the phone with colleagues to secure road closures, deliveries and the exact mix for the concrete delivery the following day - the “biggest pour in Europe, outside the nuclear and military.”

London Orbital (2002, Christopher Petit, Iain Sinclair, 77 minutes)

Recommended by: @DaveLoder
Synopsis: (IMDB) A filmmaker sets out to make a voyage of discovery on London's orbital motorway, the M25. He enlists the help of several others to film the motorway from several points, drive endlessly around it and dig up stories and potential beauty behind the motorway.

Making Cultural Infrastructure: Can We Design the Conditions for Culture

Recommended by: @EKarimnia

Comment: Here is a link to the short film on #BackstageProduction, the first stages of @cityastheatre's cultural infrastructure pilot study, based in the London neighbourhood of Elephant & Castle.The project reveals where & how art, craft & design happens behind the scenes within the city

Synopsis: In London and elsewhere, the term “cultural infrastructure” is becoming prevalent in discourses around creativity in cities. However, there has been almost no critical analysis of what an infrastructural approach to planning for culture means, what strategies for city-making it implies, and its implications for the role artistic labour plays in cities.This project investigates what conditions of urbanity constitute the infrastructures for cultural production – the backstage of public cultural life. How do different configurations of this infrastructure shape the cultures of cities, and can they be consciously designed and planned?

Man on Wire

Recommended by: @t_yarrow

Comment: “Man on Wire is also great on infrastructure as imagination; and subversive performance of urban space.”

Synopsis: (IMDB) “A look at tightrope walker Philippe Petit's daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between New York City's World Trade Center's twin towers in 1974, what some consider, "the artistic crime of the century".”

Manhatta (1921)

Recommended by: @JacobGoessling

Comment: I'll add Manhatta (1921) as a personal favorite infrastructure film.

Synopsis: (Wikipedia): Manhatta documents the look of early 20th-century Manhattan. With the city as subject, the film consists of 65 shots sequenced in a loose non-narrative structure, beginning with the Staten Island ferry approaching Manhattan and ending with a sunset view from a skyscraper. It is considered by some to be the first American avant-garde film.[1]The primary objective of the film is to explore the relationship between photography and film; camera movement is kept to a minimum, as is incidental motion within each shot. Each frame provides a view of the city that has been carefully arranged into abstract compositions.

The Invisible Link [Marshall Plan in Austria Informational Film] (1951, Victor Vicas)

Recommended by: @alec_badenoch

Synopsis: {Periscope Film} “THE INVISIBLE LINK is a 1951 film directed by Victor Vicas. The film was produced in Europe as part of the overseas information program of the United States Government during the years of the Marshall Plan, 1948 to 1951. It was shown throughout Europe as a means of telling the story of United States participation in the European Recovery Program. This invisible link that power's Austria's industry, cities and farms is, of course, electric power. Ultimately that power means jobs for the nation's many unemployed. Kaprun Dam, (00:02:35:00) in the mountains north of Salzburg - Austria's largest - and some 20 others will provide more electricity than ever before, thanks to Marshall Plan aid. Stunning footage shows how one family farms in the high mountains, with (00:09:10:00) and without (00:11:00:00) the benefit of electricity.  The Marshall Plan, officially the European Recovery Program, was an American initiative to aid Western Europe, in which the United States gave $13 billion (approximately $130 billion in current dollar value) in economic support to help rebuild Western European economies after the end of World War II. The plan was in operation for four years beginning in April of 1948. The goals of the United States were to rebuild war-devastated regions, remove trade barriers, modernize industry, make Europe prosperous again, and prevent the spread of communism. The Marshall Plan required a lessening of interstate barriers, a dropping of many regulations, and encouraged an increase in productivity, labor union membership, as well as the adoption of modern business procedures. This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, one of the largest historic military, transportation, and aviation stock footage collections in the USA. Entirely film backed, this material is available for licensing in 24p HD and 2k. For more information visit”

Misleading Innocence - Tracing What a Bridge Can Do

Recommended by:@tobias_roehl

Synopsis: This film, produced by the Canadian Centre for Architecture, explores the controversial story of the planning and politics of a series of overpasses that span the parkways of Long Island, New York. These bridges were commissioned in the 1920s and 1930s by the public administrator Robert Moses. The story suggests that the bridges were designed to prevent the passage of buses, thereby allowing only people who could afford to own a car to access Long Island's leisure spaces. The film investigates the story and the ongoing academic debate that it spurred through interviews with four scholars who in the 1980s and 1990s discussed interpretations of the design: Bernward Joerges, Bruno Latour, Langdon Winner and Steve Woolgar. The questions that the film raises engage with issues of secrecy and control, the morals of power and the effects of technology. What is the relationship between politics and artifacts? How and to what degree can a project's intentions be deliberately concealed? What are the deviously designed effects and the unplanned political consequences of the agency of the artifacts that surround us?


Recommended by:@bierjess

Comment: Moebius, about the Buenos Aires metro. First heard of it in a presentation by Stefan Helmreich:

The Narrow Streets of Bourj Hammoud

Recommended by:@ChevreBoueri

Comment: Haven’t seen the whole thing, but Joanne Nucho’s film The Narrow Streets of Bourj Hammoud would be great to pair with her book Everyday Sectarianism.

Comment by the filmmaker: Hi all! Send me a dm if you want to take a look at the film. The project also has a website here:

Nostalgia for the Future (Rohan Shivkumar+Avjit Kishore)

Recommended by: @TanviBhatkal

Comment: We did a film series on infrastructure, would recommend: Liquid City (Matthew Gandy), Cities of Sleep (Shaunak Sen), Workers Leaving the Factory (Harun Farocki), Letter to Uncle Boonmee (Apichatpong Weerasethakul), Nostalgia for the Future (Rohan Shivkumar+Avjit Kishore)

Our Metropolis

Recommended by:@srukrish

Comment: on Bangalore and the metro.

Synopsis: The promise of a global city is being used to bulldoze Bangalore, India's I.T. capital, at the expense of the people who live in it. To whose advantage?

The Phantom of the Operator (Carolien Martel, 2004, 66 min)

Recommended by:@M_Wolf_Meyer

Comment:If you have access to it, Caroline Martel's "Phantom of the Operator" is amazing!

Synopsis: This wry and delightful found-footage film reveals a little-known chapter in labor history: the story of female telephone operators’ central place in the development of global communications. With an eye for the quirky and humorous, Caroline Martel assembles a dazzling array of clips – more than one hundred remarkable, rarely seen industrial, advertising and scientific management films produced in North America between 1903 and 1989 by Bell and Western Electric – and transforms them into a dreamlike montage documentary.

La Piedra Ausente / The Absent Stone

Recommended by:@beth_reddy, @acarse

Comment: Comment: I LOVE La Piedra Ausente/ The Absent Stone. It's got Mexican politics of patrimony and identity. It's got infrastructure.   It's *beautiful*. also, made by wonderful anthropologist Sandra Rozental who is an absolute gem and would probably talk to yr class if it turns out to be practical

Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967)

Recommended by: @pamwwebb, @ksaguin


  •  “A great film about modernity”
  • “Don't rush it, and even if you don't speak French, subtitles off - the details of the dialogue really don't matter.”

Synopsis: Clumsy Monsieur Hulot (Jacques Tati) finds himself perplexed by the intimidating complexity of a gadget-filled Paris. He attempts to meet with a business contact but soon becomes lost. His roundabout journey parallels that of an American tourist (Barbara Dennek), and as they weave through the inventive urban environment, they intermittently meet, developing an interest in one another. They eventually get together at a chaotic restaurant, along with several other quirky characters.

Power Trip

Recommended by:@kaibosworth

Powerless (Cynthia Choucair)

Recommended by:@urbanmobilities


Synopsis: Jamal Chkifi, a man in his fifties, finds himself alone, after being abandoned by his Romanian wife and two children who couldn't bear a life that lacks a minimum of dignity due to the power shortage in the country. After their departure, he decides to stand up to the Lebanese government and files a lawsuit against the Lebanese electricity company, responsible for his pain and that of all the Lebanese people, demanding for justice in order to get his family back).

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth (2013)

Recommended by: @ubiquity75

Psychohydrography (Peter Bo Rappmund)

Recommended by:@bamendelsohn, @graigu

PS Toilet (Akshay Kumar, 2017) (Trailer)

Comment: Ps. Toilet -a love story is a must see, very controversial with its depiction of infrastructure and gender - from toilets, bikes ,mobile phones, railways, and the rural / urban divide to name a few, all within the Bollywood formula and available on Netflix

Q2P (Paromita Vohra)

Recommended by:@kitabet

Comment: it's a little older, but Paromita Vohra's Q2P (on toilets and gender and urbanism in India) is great

The River (Pare Lorentz, 1938)

Recommended by: @alec_badenoch

Stream here:

Comment: “Links natural infrastructure (Mississippi Basin) with industry, with the TVA (electricity, etc.).”

Synopsis:”The River blends poetic narration with artistic cinematography and an original score by composer Virgil Thomson and was named Best Documentary at the Venice Film Festival in 1938.  The script for the film was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for poetry and was also described by author James Joyce as "the most beautiful prose I have heard in ten years". The River demonstrated the potential of documentary films as a powerful impetus for social change, prompting widespread discussion not only of the problems they presented but also of the documentary form itself.” (FDR Library, via Youtube link above)

Shanghai (2012)

Recommended by: @frontlineanthro

Comment: "Shanghai" (2012) is a great film exploring the politics of development, infrastructure, and the discourse of progress in India.

Silent Clap of the Status Quo (Charles Lim)

Recommended by: @kennethtay_

Comment: Charles Lim’s “Silent Clap of the Status Quo”—video installation featuring the maintenance / inspection of an undersea internet cable;

Still Life (Jia Zhangke / 2006)

Recommended by: @ksaguin

Submarine (Mounia Akl),

Recommended by:@urbanmobilities [Full film]

The Taste of Cement (Ziad Kalthoum),

Recommended by:@urbanmobilities [Trailer]

Synopsis: In Beirut, Syrian construction workers are building a skyscraper while at the same time their own houses at home are being shelled. The Lebanese war is over but the Syrian one still rages on. The workers are locked in the building site. They are not allowed to leave it after 7pm. The Lebanese government has imposed nighttime curfews on the refugees. The only contact with the outside world for these Syrian workers is the hole through which they climb out in the morning to begin a new day of work. Cut off from their homeland, they gather at night around a small TV set to get the news from Syria. Tormented by anguish and anxiety, while suffering the deprivation of the most basic human and workers right, they keep hoping for a different life. After The Immortal Sergeant, Ziad Kalthoum composes an excruciating essay on what it means to live in exile in a war-torn world with no possibilities to return home. Precise camera framing, unorthodox editing, and dreamlike narrative detours are the trademarks of a daring, imaginative and visually challenging cinematographic work.

Tectonics (Peter Bo Rappmund)

Recommended by:@bamendelsohn, @graigu


Recommended by:@prernasrigyan, @bijliabhinav

Comment: about speculative real estate, gender, informality in Delhi peripheries

Topophilia (Peter Bo Rappmund)

Recommended by: @bamendelsohn, @graigu

Trilogy on the Tabaqa Dam and Lake Assad in Syria (Omar Amiralay)

Recommended by: @CynthiaKr

Comment: Omar Amiralay’s trilogy on the Tabaqa dam and lake Assad in Syria: Film Essay on the Euphrates Dam (1970); Everyday Life in a Syrian Village (1974); and Flood in Ba’ath Country (2003).

‘Turning Livelihoods to Rubbish?

Recommended by:@nate_millington

Comment: We made this, on the waste economy in South Africa - might fit what you're looking for.

Synopsis: This film, one of the primary outputs of the broader Turning Livelihoods to Rubbish? project, introduces a creative look at the politics of waste in Cape Town, South Africa. This film is designed to highlight the unequal, power-laden relations through which waste circulates, and to offer insight into an industry that is often out of sight. Drawing from interviews with a number of different role players within the waste economy, the film highlights different perspectives on waste in order to call attention to some of the central tensions of the industry. The film situates waste management within a city defined by intense inequality and unevenness, highlighting the perspectives of reclaimers who perform much of the necessary collection of recyclables. Current efforts to formalize waste management and recycling initiatives have implications for informal waste pickers or reclaimers, who do much of the primary work with waste in the global south. Our film subsequently highlights the often fraught relationships between waste reclaimers and the formal waste management sector.

Up the Yangtze (2007)

Recommended by: @ubiquity75

The Wages of Fear  (1953, 131 min)

Recommended by: @cajakap

Synopsis: (Wikipedia) The Wages of Fear (French: Le salaire de la peur) is a 1953 French-Italian thriller film directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, starring Yves Montand, and based on the 1950 French novel Le salaire de la peur (lit. "The Salary of Fear") by Georges Arnaud. When an oil well owned by an American company catches fire, the company hires four European men, down on their luck, to drive two trucks over mountain dirt roads, loaded with nitroglycerine needed to extinguish the flames. The film brought Clouzot international fame—winning both the Golden Bear and the Palme d'Or at the 1953 Berlin Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival, respectively—and allowed him to direct Les Diaboliques. In France, it was the 4th highest-grossing film of the year with a total of 6,944,306 admissions.

We made every living thing from water (Paul Cochrane & Karim Eid-Sabbagh)

Recommended by:@urbanmobilities [Trailer]
Link to full film:
Synopsis: In this documentary independent journalist Paul Cochrane and researcher Dr Karim Eid-Sabbagh investigate the political economy of water in Lebanon – how the flows of water are shaped by power and capital. Filmed in the wake of the July 2015 trash crisis, the film highlights the dangerous impact environmental degradation is having on the country and its water resources, and how in the face of governmental disregard for ecological concerns the public is starting to mobilize in order to protect a common resource. The 40-minute documentary shows how politics, sectarianism, development agencies and economics produce a specific management, and mismanagement, of Lebanon’s water resources. Languages: English and Arabic (w/subtitles)

Western (Valeska Grisebach, 2017)

Recommended by: @PHellermann

Comment: I loved Western, a great film about German construction workers in Bulgaria.

Synopsis: (Wikipedia) Western is a 2017 internationally co-produced drama film written, produced, and directed by Valeska Grisebach. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.[1][2] The film has been well received by critics. The film stars Meinhard Neumann in his first acting role as a German construction worker in Bulgaria who finds himself in the middle of a culture clash with the locals.

When all is ruin once again (Keith Walsh & Jill Beardsworth)

Recommended by: @pbresnihan

Synopsis: At the beginning of the Anthropocene – an epoch defined as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on the natural world – a rural community carve out their lives while a motorway ploughs forth through their landscape. It goes no further than the town of Gort in the west of Ireland, halted by the dawn of a financial crisis.

In this poetic documentary from director Keith Walsh, who lives on the South Galway/Clare border where the documentary was made, a myriad of personalities weave an epic tapestry through the bog lands, farms, firesides, race tracks and hurling pitches of recession Ireland.

Who framed Roger Rabbit?
Recommended by: @rainersax
Comment: Toontown is being razed to make a freeway and shut down public transportation.

Woman at War
Recommended by: @kylecassidy
Comment: Woman at War. And Icelandic woman’s takes on the energy and aluminum industry with a bow and arrow.

The Workers' Cup

Recommended by:@nicgrove

Synopsis: Inside the labor camps of Qatar, African and Asian migrant workers building the facilities of the 2022 World Cup compete in a football tournament of their own: The Workers Cup.

Workers Leaving the Factory (Harun Farocki),

Recommended by: @TanviBhatkal

Comment: We did a film series on infrastructure, would recommend: Liquid City (Matthew Gandy), Cities of Sleep (Shaunak Sen), Workers Leaving the Factory (Harun Farocki), Letter to Uncle Boonmee (Apichatpong Weerasethakul), Nostalgia for the Future (Rohan Shivkumar+Avjit Kishore)