Written by Ljiljana Maletin Vojvodić //

Why is work so crucial to our identity? Why is „What are you doing for a living?“ such a common and seemingly innocent question? And why do we struggle to figure out what to do with ourselves after our regular jobs? What to do after work? Do we know how to rest? Why are we afraid of retirement? How can we structure our own days?

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At first glance, these might not appear as essential life questions, certainly not on par with matters like childbirth, illness, or death. However, they are indeed profoundly significant and archetypal queries, which the documentary film „After Work“ explores.

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A thought-provoking Swedish film by Erik Gandini, „After Work,“ delves into the phenomenon of work in the 21st century, spanning from Kuwait to Korea, and from the US to Europe. Kuwait’s constitution enshrines the right to a job, leading to scenarios where one person’s role is fulfilled by twenty. In South Korea, work is so pervasive that measures like turning off computers after work hours have been implemented to discourage overwork. In the US, over 500 million holiday hours are left untaken each year.

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Due to modern technology, which is taking over more and more jobs, the film problematizes the idea of a guaranteed income for every citizen (basic income). It raises questions about whether something like that is possible, and ethically justified, what economic and political implications it would provoke, and so on. Different viewpoints regarding the guaranteed income in the film are represented by Elon Musk, Yanis Varoufakis, and certain businesspeople in Italy and the USA.

„The majority of jobs that exist today will fade away in a few decades. As technology outpaces human capabilities, we face the opportunity to redefine work’s role in our lives. Are we prepared for an abundance of time? For a life without work? Across four continents, the film captures vastly different lives; some individuals barely have time beyond work, while others revel in leisure. Through these diverse stories and characters, we are thrust into the existential tension between what currently is and what could be.“ (Plot description of „After Work“)

The film I watched at the Way Out Fest 2023 film festival comes with a strong recommendation for everyone, particularly for workaholics who struggle to unwind. Society has ingrained in us the notion that work equals value, recognition, and acceptance. But what about the importance of rest?

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