Opening 22 Aug 2013
Google the word “apple” and that juicy red thing that you stole from the neighbor’s tree comes up fifth. Guess what stands at places one to four. Easy question: naturally it’s Apple Computer, Inc and also the “apple” in the title of this film. Director Rasmus Gerlach shows us the opening of the Apple store in Hamburg, Germany, September 2011. People slept on the sidewalk for hours in order to be first to enter. The iPhone is one of their most popular products. From Hamburg Gerlach goes to the border between the Congo and Ruanda to tin mines; tin is one of the products in an iPhone. He travels to Hong Kong and films speakers from the NGO SACOM (Students and Scholars against Corporate Misbehavior). They demonstrate against work conditions worse than slavery at Foxconn, a subsidiary of Apple in China where workers have a high rate of suicides. In China he visits a secret factory which illegally manufactures spare parts for iPhones. Most interesting are interviews with so-called “handy-doctors”, right here in Hamburg St. Pauli. These are talented repairmen who will fix your phone in their small shops.
The film is a protest against Apple, but what do we learn? We learn that Apple wants you to take your broken iPhone to their stores for repair in their “Genius Bar,” that independent repairmen buy old iPhones at the lost-and-found auctions of Hamburg’s public transportation office, that there are no iPhones or parts thereof in any of the tons of garbage collected daily in Egypt. A handy doctor can wrap your iPhone in tinfoil and bake it at 190-200 degrees to repair a fissure in the tin. We learn that Africans work under extreme conditions to mine tin, earn less than Euro 40 a month and die before turning 30. Employees at the Apple store in Hamburg are encouraged NOT to talk with reporters. A German company, H.C. Starck, with headquarters in the Harz deals in “secret substances” which go to Intel which delivers to Apple. Did we know any of that already?
New to me was the term “conflict minerals.” This refers to metals which are mined and sold with the proceeds going to buy weapons for use in the Congo civil war. Most interesting is director Gerlach. He was born in Hamburg, grew up in Denmark and Bremerhaven and studied at the Hamburg School of Art (Hamburger Kunsthochschule). He has been filming documentaries since 1997. He is perhaps Hamburg’s answer to Michael Moore, a less narcissistic, in-your-face version, but just as pertinent in his information. We can expect much more of great interest from him. (Becky Tan)