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Salaryman

A Salaryman is a worker that gives their all to the company. Most commonly this comes out as working long hours and being required to join for after-work drinks and meals with colleagues and bosses. At the moment this is more of less confined to the Japanese working market but it doesn’t take much to see that it would spread elsewhere if it could.

Documentary maker Allegra Pacheco, a Costa Rican native, had her own brush with this type of work when moving to work in New York earlier in her career but, due to her working visa not being renewed she upped sticks and moved to Tokyo. It is here where she experienced and found the topic of this interesting documentary film.

Pacheco does very well to lay it all out, detailing the workers and their regular day-to-day lifestyles in an interesting and entertaining way with great use of music overlays, time-lapse shots and graphics to tell the story. The interviews are also a great insight into the minds of the workers and how they are maintaining this work-style year after year, and also the opposite – those who realised the effects of this and managed to escape from it.

It barely touches on the deeper aspects of this working style: why they are made to work like this, who started it and how they get away with it and the personal and far-reaching effects on the workers and their families. Instead we are treated to repeated themes of working hours and drinking hours, rinse and repeat.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t a more profound centre to this documentary, because it does deal with one very serious issue and it does it very well, but it leans more into the camera-worthy moments of passed out salarymen outlined in Pacheco’s white powder, mimicking a crime scene. And, being a photographer, this makes sense to where Pacheco is coming from and her strengths.

With all the interviews you get a look at the “company cattle”, the disposable things that the corporations can use and abuse at their will. And, while they are saying that they are happy and grateful to be working in this situation, their eyes, without fail, say a different story – one that says they are trapped and would rather be doing something else that didn’t take all their time, energy and family time away from them.

I’m not a big watcher of documentaries but this one is highly watchable, but maybe it sacrifices some of its integrity of the subject matter to make it more palatable to the viewer.

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