The Ballad of Tita and the Machines successfully finds that balance between being a great satire while making its point firm over the use of humans versus technology in the workplace. Miguel Angel Cabarello has created a truly delightful film.
Tita, an injured elderly strawberry picker, reluctantly hires an AI Humanoid to substitute her and unexpectedly attracts the curiosity of the creators of this technology when their AI workers can’t do her back-breaking work.
Time comes for us all and our work life where we must admit that maybe we can’t do our job as efficiently as we used to. With Tita, the arthritis in her hands is just taking too much of a toll on her productivity. With her employers using technology to scan how effective the condition of Tita and her colleagues’ hands, she cannot hide the fact that her ability to be as productive as her much younger cohort is diminishing. With technology rampant in this near-future world, AI Humanoids are all the rage, or so Tita’s daughter tells her. So why not let one do her job with the sacrifice of a hefty portion of her pay?
As it turns out in The Ballad of Tita and the Machines, none of these high-tech humanoids can carry out manual labour. Droid after droid malfunctions in various humorous manners, leaving Tita and the humanoid creators totally perplexed. Miguel Angel Cabarello and Luis Antonio Aldana show us that carrying out manual labour tasks is infinitely more challenging than many of us thought. ‘Unskilled workers’ and their jobs should hold a more significant value after what we all went through in the pandemic. Where would a lot of us be without them?
Yet, like in the film, we have this obsession with AI and technology replacing so much. But can those compete with a human regarding emotional strength, compassion and ability to heal? Tita’s body is slowly failing her, but what is important is the word slowly. She still has the mental and physical strength to keep going. Whereas her humanoid counterparts just break, with costly repairs needed.
They highlight the need and the vital, continued need of the “humble” strawberry picker, the seamstress, and the construction worker. Technology can and should be used to make the lives of such workers far easier. Yet, companies are obsessed with replacing the human workforce. This foolish endeavour is the crux of The Ballad of Tita and the Machines whilst also showing us the yearning some of us must stay employed to remain active in a social setting.
Tita doesn’t necessarily need the job, but she loves the social dynamic of it. As someone who moved from customer service to an office environment many moons ago, you understand that, even in that form. Going from a place that gives you a continued connection with others to just being on a screen all day or retired robs you of something important socially. She is alive when she is out on that field in all conditions. Whereas in her empty home, she is horribly alone, I know what I would pick if I were her.
The star of The Ballad of Tita and the Machines is Laura Patalano, who is utterly fabulous as our stubborn protagonist. You feel for her as a woman who wants to just keep doing what she is doing, to not just be tossed to the side because now she is slower. When she yells at the staff who examine her later in the film, you cheer for her. How dare they talk about her as a subject, she is a human and one who demands rightful respect. Patalano is a wonderful gem in a film, allowing her performance to shine.
For the majority of the film, it runs fairly light, with a shadow of seriousness running through it. Only when Cabarello and Aldana fully show their hands does the short’s pointed nature come into focus. The Ballad of Tita and the Machines ends up being a tribute to those in working-class jobs, to the people who do the jobs that we take for granted. When push comes to shove, we need them in our society, so how about we give them their due respect. It is an entertaining but pointed short that everyone can take something from.
For more coverage of TIFF 2023 please check out our reviews below:
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