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Film Review: The Stonebreakers (Las Picapedreras)
by Marinell Haegelin

Azul Aizenberg, Argentina 2021

Azul Aizenberg’s documentary highlights Argentina’s introduction to the 20th century. Tensions, taut since 1906 when the Tandil Worker's Union of the Quarries was formed, snapped in 1908 when the country’s stonebreakers went on strike. It evolved into the longest strike in Argentina’s history, although the huge labor movement was poorly recorded; perhaps the dictatorship successfully disappeared relevant information. Six decades later, a film was made about the event giving short shrift to women, albeit women were active at union conflicts. Aizenberg’s intention was to rectify this. Sifting through the rubble of fragments still available, Aizenberg assembles a clear picture of just how much weight women’s contributions carried.

Initially, women were strikers at home by breaking plates, so when they banded together and pooled their talents, they wreaked havoc in communities. During one incident, they were able to stop a train, although police repression caused one woman’s death. That only emboldened women. They seemed to have a better grasp of synergy’s importance. Also, they understood how many social groups rights, i.e., poorer citizens doing the hard labor, were being exploited, i.e., what was at stake.

Azul Aizenberg wrote, directed, produced, and edited the 17-minute film with Esteban Bellotto Kuzminsky and Daniela Medina Silva’s sound design. The prodigious amount of archival material/brief extracts are sometimes dizzying to follow, particularly during the 1976 – 1978 section: background material re Alberto Gauna’s 1976 film CERRO DE LEONES about the 1908 11-month strike, and historian Hugo Nario’s book. Nevertheless, the story’s sequential aspects are fascinating, plus how women were left out of the earlier film. Its editing is paced; its voiceover modulated; the old music recordings amplify its ambience. Although brief, historically it was significant; Eva Perón named May 1 the "worker's celebration” day in 1948. “Rise up! To destroy is to create!”