Il Posto (A Steady Job)
(Italy/France, 75 min.)
Dir. Mattia Colombo and Gianluca Matarrese
Program: World Showcase
A steady job. It sounds so simple, yet it means so much. A steady job affords stability and security. It means that one can provide, whether one is single or raising a family. Moreover, a steady job offers emotional security and psychological balance. It means that one can navigate daily necessities and luxuries without the precariousness that comes with temporary work. A steady job can change a person’s life.
However, directors Mattia Colombo and Gianluca Matarrese recognize that secure and stable employment is a luxury for many Italians of their generation. Their deceptively simple documentary Il Posto (A Steady Job) offers a microcosm of the thousands upon thousands of young Italians navigating a competitive market. Unemployment is sky-high and reliable full-time jobs simply aren’t a reality for young people.
The film sees the job crisis through the eyes of Raffaele. He is trained as a nurse, but runs a business as a sort of tour bus operator. Raffaele manages a shuttle that young people from a small town near Naples use to visit the northern parts of Italy. This bus isn’t for tourism, though. It’s for accessing the job market. He can simply make a better living by facilitating hope for other aspiring nurses than by finding a nursing job himself. This is an eye-opening snapshot of an economy in crisis and a generation in despair.
A Road Movie of Dreams
Il Posto follows the bus as dozens of job seekers make cross-country treks in hopes of securing work. Raffaele orchestrates mass travel to facilitate access to the state exam. Everyone applying for government/publicly-funded work must pass the test to access the list. The competition is so fierce, however, that a full busload of jobseekers may be among the 15,000 applicants for 120 spots. Expectations must be managed and dreams must be paused.
Colombo (Il passo) and Matarrese (this year’s Hot Docs selection Fashion Babylon) offer a provocative study of the tenuous job market by zeroing in on Raffaele and his bus. Moreover, they strike great luck in that Raffaele is an unemployed nurse and his clients are aspiring healthcare workers. Il Posto observes a highly unstable market when filming begins in 2018, but when the action picks up in March 2020, the documentary witnesses how greatly employment inequity contributed to the tragedies of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The film observes as the market for health care jobs becomes exponentially more competitive. Social distancing rules means that arenas that once housed thousands of applicants can now hold merely hundreds. Buses that were packed with job seekers are now half-full. Access is at a premium and unemployed millennials must pay to play.
The Plight of Front-Line Workers
However, the film also learns through the stories of its participants how the health care system is in dire states. Characters unwind while reliving tales from the floors of hospitals, retirement homes, and long-term care facilitates. They admit to being one hand caring for floors housing up to 40 people. That means they’re always on the go and always responding—and carrying grave responsibilities and liabilities amid a pandemic with a highly transmissible virus. The COVID factor merely illustrates how much the pandemic amplified and aggravated problems that were already running rampant in society. This facet makes Il Posto one of the more provocative takes on the pandemic yet.
By looking at the stories of these workers and the burdens they carry, Il Posto invites a wider conversation about the value we place in essential workers. The front-line workers like the ones featured here shouldered the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as the film shows, they work every day as if it were their last on the job. How society can value those who sacrifice greatly, and upon whom the majority of us rely for our health so that we can perform our own duties, speaks volumes to the ideologies and value systems that fail us all. Il Posto is an urgent portrait of a broken system. What’s particularly distressing, though, is the probability that the worst is still to be seen.
Il Posto screened at Hot Docs 2022.