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“Great Dreams Can Turn Into Nightmares” – The Gig is Up (Hot Docs 2021 Film Review)

3 min read

Still Courtesy - Hot Docs

David Cuevas takes a look at The Gig is Up as part of Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival

Last night, I ordered a meal on Skip the Dishes. I didn't think about it at first. For some strange reason, I was craving for some fast food; a guilty pleasure meal to kill some time during the current Canadian lockdown. Without a single thought or care in the world, I added some chicken nuggets into my cart with the additional delivery fee. In a matter of twenty minutes, my order arrived in pristine condition. It wasn't until later that day when I viewed Shannon Walsh's The Gig is Up, where the realisation and true cost of empathy that came with the meal truly came into fruition. Her film is a testament to my own reliance on technology and accessibility; a revealing non-fiction piece that revels in its clear exposure towards the every-day battle between the commonwealth and corporate malaise. Although I may sound slightly hyperbolic, what makes Walsh's film so compelling is her documentation of her subjects. The testimonials in particular frequently illuminate the tougher conditions of gig work on a global scale; resulting in some harrowing real-time scenes.

But after further examining Walsh's presentation of her material and overarching justification of the film's medium and presentation on a larger scale, I would still argue that a serialised approach to the subject matter would have enhanced the human stories at the crux of The Gig is Up. My most prominent issue with the film is purely from a structural perspective. For a film that highlights the necessity and mindset behind ratings, work efficiency, and speed; the pressure and urgency of the core issue at hand is deeply lacking, prominently due to the film's distracting intercutting of testimonies. The film constantly alternates locations, subjects, and even mid-thought interviews in order to fulfil a reasonable length. The cramming of information that is merely glossed over is nothing short of disappointing; where arguably the most appropriate medium to voice these dedicated workers should have been in an episodic format.

Still Courtesy –

With the aforementioned cramming of information and video footage, the quality and presentation of the film's portrait style also slowly diminished in the process. For a film that claims to be “a very human tech doc”, the flow of scenes and cutting feels staggeringly artificial. Sprinkle in some inappropriate music on top of the contrived editing, and The Gig is Up ultimately proves to be yet another important documentary that lacks the urgency and punch it truly needed for it to withstand the test of time.

For my own personal two cents, an episodic miniseries divided into ten minute chapters about each of the interviewees would have been a far more effective choice of presentation. There is a commendable amount of research and thorough examination towards the central social issues at hand within Walsh's film. But once you separate the subject with the flow, consistency, and urgency of the film's execution, The Gig is Up slowly descends into a pool of questionable directional choices. Walsh's latest delivers its core meal with varying degrees of success and time effectiveness — a thumbs-down film for a thumbs-up subject.

Still Courtesy – Hot Docs

The Gig is Up premiered in the Canadian Spectrum program as part of this year's Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. The film is currently seeking international distribution.

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