IndiePix // 2006 // 55 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // April 5th, 2010
What's behind the label of YOUR T-shirt?
No Sweat is documentary filmmaker Amie Williams' attempt to closely examine two Los Angeles-based companies trying to shake things up in the U.S. garment industry. She doesn't completely succeed in doing so, but her little film gives viewers great access to two T-shirt factories that operate quite differently, despite having the same goal: to offer their workers much better working conditions and higher salaries than most sweatshops.
Williams grabs her camera and spends some time visiting and comparing SweatX and American Apparel. SweatX was set up with the financial help of Ben & Jerry's Ben Cohen, whose main mission was to create a unique clothing factory that treats its workers right and enables them to acquire ownership in the company. American Apparel was founded by Dov Charney, an eccentric businessman who built his company from the ground up and stands out because he takes things the easy way and seems to treat his workers like his buddies.
No Sweat delivers two interesting portraits that shed light on the business practices of Cohen and Charney, who both utilize different practices when it comes to running their companies. One of them pays his workers based on how much they produce per hour, while the other one offers them a fixed hourly rate. That said, solid benefits and decent salaries bring along a lot of problems for companies that don't really enough of a profit, and Williams made sure to highlight both the good and bad surrounding SweatX and American Apparel.
Plenty of footage from inside the two factories as well as tons of interviews with the founders and especially workers keep things interesting throughout the film, but what Williams failed to do here is dig deeper. No Sweat only runs for 55 minutes, but at one point, I started wondering why she didn't attempt to offer viewers a more in-depth analysis of her findings, some of which could've been explored a lot further. It's not a major issue considering this film is more of a profile than an investigative piece, but it makes the whole thing seems a tad too monotonous after a while.
No Sweat works for the most part thanks to the incredibly weird personality of Dov Charney, who doesn't blow any smoke and jumps around in front of the camera like a hyperactive monkey. He curses a lot and is very frank about what he's got to say, and to tell you the truth, he's the kind of interviewee you want to keep watching. Cohen's personality is a little dryer, and that does eventually balance out with Charney's energy. In that sense, Williams certainly succeeded in capturing the true business spirit of both her subjects.
The film's technical aspects could be better. Williams certainly didn't care much about her doc's production values, and especially the sound quality fails to deliver. A lot of the audio is too loud and distorted, and, while some of her interviewees wear proper microphones, others don't. The image at least is sharp enough throughout, but the direction of photography isn't exactly as professional as it could've been.
The DVD includes a trailer and some deleted scenes, as well as a brief interview with Williams, who explains why she decided to come up with this story and what it is about these companies that makes them interesting to her.
No Sweat is by no means a documentary masterpiece, but for what it is, it's still fairly entertaining. It's a basic profile of two interesting T-shirt companies (one of which is no longer in business), but it doesn't really go any deeper than showing how they're operating. Viewers are briefly introduced to some of these businesses' internal problems, but that's as far as Williams goes, apparently by intent.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 55 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes