Schamatta: Rags to Riches to Rags

film by Marc Levin, Review by Darryl! L.C. Moch, Labor Heritage Foundation

An HBO release of a Blowback production. Produced by Daphne Pinkerson, Marc Levin. Executive producer, Sheila Nevins. Co-producer, Richard Lowe. Directed by Marc Levin.


October 2009

Every now and then get a glimpse of something truly astounding.  Recently I saw a screening of Schmatta, by renowned filmmaker Marc Levin, and it is simply astounding.  It is by far one of the best movies I have ever seen in my life.  (Now before you think I, or the Labor Heritage Foundation (, were paid for this or that this is just a lot of hyperbole let me tell you why.)  Schmatta, has all the makings of the greatest films weaving together suspense, intrigue, romance, doom, destiny, hope, and challenge.  It will make you laugh, cry, wonder, and understand issues near and dear to the human heart with both a sense of history and present reality.  It is not sci-fi or fantasy, it is real, as real as every breath you take.  From the local communities in New York City, to the ritz and glamour of the fashion industry and Hollywood, to the poorer nations around the world this film is simply riveting.

As the executive director of the Labor movements Arts, Culture, and Creative Organizing non profit, we are in the business of preserving and promoting Labor Arts and Culture for the purpose of strengthening the movement.  This film is more than just a look into the struggles of the industries that have been built up around the garment industry; it is in so many ways a reflection of the ever changing issues in our American culture, including economics, social justice, human rights, and simple societal decency.  Schmatta, takes a bold look at the lives of real people. It does not hold back and is both raw and poignant, it is intriguing and challenging, and is both reflective and prophetic.

The “characters” in this film are real people who represent the best and worst of us.  But in them we can see the full range of humanity.  The sympathetic characters are not just poor and down trodden but are hard working people who are seeking to work for the best of themselves, their families, and community.  These people come from various backgrounds but have in common a work ethic that promotes excellence and pride.  The more antagonistic characters are also real people with both flaws and redeeming qualities.  The director, Levin, does not allow them to become just villainous but they live and breathe and show both the determination to succeed, the challenges of that success, and the pitfalls of chasing the American Dream through capitalism.  And then there are the “characters” in between; who are neither fully sympathetic nor antagonistic- they are somehow by-products of the forces.  They are also part of the whole process and somehow they too are challenged by the ups and downs of the industry.

Schmatta, represents a first for HBO, which will begin airing this film the week of Monday October, 19 at 9pm. It is the first time they have taken such a bold step into a subject matter that so stridently touches on both social and political issues and does so without abandon.  Schamatta, is a labor film, truly, and is, in fact, one of the first times a feature film shows the vital importance of the Labor movement and Unions as pivotal to the success of American industry and culture.  It chronicles, as well, the growth of both a strong middle class (moving people from every strata of the socio-economic ladder), building wealth, and generating a pride in craftspersonship, products, and American genius and ingenuity.

Be sure to watch HBO’s premier of Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags– see the truth about the importance of Unions, organizing, strengthening the middle class, and confronting greed.  And share in the glory of Labor Arts and Culture reaching out to connect with millions of people worldwide who may not be union but whose lives are improved because of the work and efforts of organized labor.  If there was ever a reason to come together, build stronger coalitions, and make progress for the working people of American and our international brothers and sisters, Schamatta, makes that case.  After you see this film there will be no doubt that we need the Employee free Choice Act, now.


Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Ragairing Monday, October 19, 2009,  9pm, on HBO worldwide.

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