The Boot Factory (2001)

Genres - Culture & Society  |   Sub-Genres - Music History, Sociology  |   Run Time - 87 min.  |   Countries - France , Poland   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Fred Beldin

"Punk rock" means different things to different people. Some think of obnoxiousness, noise, and negativity, while others envision political awareness, righteous anger, and positive change. The Boot Factory offers a compelling case that being a punk is all about self-reliance in the face of adversity, and it isn't hard to agree after watching the film's scrappy band of hardcore bootmakers take on the harsh realities of the Polish economy. Documentarian Lech Kowalski once again captures the intimate movements of societal outsiders without judgment or commentary, simply recording the lives of people that most would never regard. The Boot Factory is divided into two segments, the first filmed in grainy black-and-white, and the second in color. The monochrome sequences follow the cobblers as they build their business together, throw wild parties, and even watch one of their own get married. These are revealed to be happy memories as six months pass and the film turns to color stock, bringing the audience into a future of uncertainty for the bootmakers, as they are faced with drug addiction, marital strife, and a weakening of the solidarity they enjoyed earlier. Standout scenes include the dour, ska-scored wedding celebration and the raucous beer blast where a drunken reveler improvises a crude (but poetic) song about his love for sex, punk rock, and getting loaded (not necessarily in that order). Kowalski's impassive camera is there for moments of activity as well as stasis, but even during the dullest, most routine points of one's life there are future events being determined with every movement, and this truth is at the heart of the director's approach. The Boot Factory brings the viewer up close through the good and the bad, the engaging and the monotonous, and the result is as honest and real as a documentary can be.