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The Forgotten Space

The Forgotten Space

The 'forgotten space' of Allan Sekula and Noel Burch's essay film is the sea, the oceans through which 90% of the world's cargo now passes. At the heart of this space is the container box, which, since its invention in the 1950s, has become one of the most important mechanisms for the global spread of capitalism.

The film follows the container box along the international supply chain, from ships to barges, trains, and trucks, mapping the byzantine networks that connect producers to consumers (and more and more frequently, producing nations to consuming ones). Visiting the major ports of Rotterdam, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Guangdong province, and many places between, it connects the economic puzzle pieces that corporations and governments would prefer remain scattered.

We meet people who have been reduced to cogs in this increasingly automated machine - the invisible laborers who staff the cargo ships, steer the barges, drive the trucks, and migrate to the factories, and whose low wages form the base of the entire enterprise. The film also introduces us to those who this system's efficiency has marginalized: the longtime unemployed occupants of a California tent city, Dutch farmers whose land is bisected by a new high-speed train line, and the displaced residents of Doel, Belgium, whose city is slated for demolition in order to expand the port of Antwerp.

Employing a wide range of materials and styles, from interviews to classic film clips, essayistic voiceover to observational footage, THE FORGOTTEN SPACE provides a panoramic portrait of the new global economy and a compelling argument about why it must change.

'An engrossing and provocative essay film... Various experts offer informative analysis, but the testimony of seamen, factory workers and residents of a California homeless encampment is at the heart of the film's guiding ethical and aesthetic principles, which have to do with the defense of human dignity in the face of a system that so often appears hostile or indifferent to it.' -A.O. Scott, The New York Times

'THE FORGOTTEN SPACE begins as an investigative documentary and concludes as a mythopoeic essay on modernity and the sea.' -Artforum

'To say that the subject of THE FORGOTTEN SPACE is the global transformation of labor caused by container cargo shipping is like saying that WAGON MASTER is a Western. Noel Burch and Allan Sekula's essay film is a journey around the world, to the ports of Rotterdam, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Bilbao-each a trove of stories, encounters, and observations at times angry and at times wry. The whole thing is held together by Sekula's adventure-happy, politically astute, partisan commentary, which itself is a masterpiece of nonfiction.' -Olaf Moller, Film Comment

'Too political for mainstream taste, obligatory for everyone else.' -Jonathan Rosenbaum, Film Comment


Main credits

Sekula, Allan (Director)
Sekula, Allan (Screenwriter)
Burch, Noël (Director)
Burch, Noël (Screenwriter)
Reemst, Frank van (Producer)
Verheij, Joost (Producer)
Lucassen, Vincent (Producer)
Sinzinger, Ebba (Producer)

Other credits

Frank van Reemst & Joost Verheij, Doc.Eye Film presents; in co-production with Vincent Lucassen & Ebba Sinzinger, WILDart Film.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

Business Ethics
Cultural Studies
Economic Sociology
History (World)
Labor Studies
Western Europe


sea; ocean; container ship; cargo; ships; shipping; maritime; capitalism; globalization; work; workers; Allan Sekula; Noel Burch; essay film; Hong Kong; Rotterdam; Antwerp; China; Hong Kong; Belgium; labor; documentary; film; video; DVD; "The Forgotten Space"; Icarus Films; ,doc

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