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Using their own forbidden history as a case study, the Indonesian filmmakers trace the development of contemporary globalization from its roots in colonialism to the present. Through chilling first-hand accounts, hilarious improvised interventions, collective debate and archival collage, "The Globalization Tapes" exposes the devastating role of militarism and repression in building the "global economy", and explores the relationships between trade, third-world debt, and international institutions like the IMF and the World Trade Organization.
Sharman Sinaga's granddaughter looks bored as her grandfather demonstrates for the camera his favored technique of market liberalization: holding union activists upside down in flooded fields. He mimics their gargles as they choke in the mud. He could hold down two or three at a time he boasts; he seems faintly nostalgic in the dim light and the smoke; his only regret, that his arms and knees aren't what they used to be. The orders to hold people upside-down came from the top, he tells us, from Surhato; they came also with support from high on Capitol Hill.
Plantation workers spontaneously stage a satirical commercial for the pesticide that poisons them; the filmmakers pose as World Bank agents with offers to 'develop' local businesses - offers which are both brutal and absurd, yet, tempting, nonetheless. The Globalization Tapes is a testament to the intelligence, humor, integrity and creativity of its makers and their community.
"If we are united in our struggle against worker oppression, united in our search for truth amidst lies, united for a truly participatory democratic economic system, the possibilities are only limited by our courage, our determination, and our capacity to imagine." - Su Karman, narrator of The Globalization Tapes and President of Perbbuni, the Independent Plantation Workers' Union of Sumatra.