Silverdocs Shorts: "Labor Pains" Thursday, June 23 at 10 a.m. at AFI Silver 1; also on Saturday, June 25 at 1:15 p.m. at Discovery HD Theater

Guanape Sur
Directed by János Richter

By law, the isolation of the remote island of Guañape Sur is broken once every 11 years, when itinerant workers scramble over rocky slopes to harvest mineral-rich bird excrement. Filmmaker János Richter captures this human migration in an unsettling portrait of labor on the fringes of the global economy, relying only on a lingering camera and diegetic sound to glimpse at the stoic humanity of the men who have what must be one of the worst jobs on earth.

Directed by Mariana Oliva

By the year 2050, a group of researchers at the University of Edinburgh wants a team of robots to play and win a soccer game against humans. While this is an exciting concept, “Humanoids,” a short documentary about their efforts, proves they’ve got a lot of work left to do in the next 39 years. The film says little more. “Roll the ball slower,” one researcher tells another after a tiny plastic robot is unable to respond to a red ball at its feet. In another scene, a robot keeps moving past a scientist and a cardboard box in its way even though it has been programmed to stop. Pretty unimpressive stuff. Meanwhile, we hear an unidentified radio voice explain how robots should enhance, not replace, humans. I honestly wasn’t worried about it.

Three Walls
Directed by Zaheed Mawani

Long-suffering office drones will be unsurprised by the revelation that the concept of the office cubicle was visited upon North America by vanquished, post-WWII Germany. In this light submission, Canadian director Zaheed Mawani mixes a brief history of “systems furniture” with interviews of cube dwellers and truly undynamic footage of office furniture being constructed on the factory floor, leaving the impression that the people who build the stuff work harder than the people who occupy it.

Directed by Bari Pearlman

There is little dialogue and no musical score in Water. Only the quiet chanting of a rural Tibetan woman accompanies the images of her high-altitude trek to fetch water from a small, distant puddle, a task she performs four times a day. Director Bari Pearlman’s quiet film condenses the arduous, one-hour round-trip into eight minutes and offers no explanations or condemnations, just the sight of a woman climbing a mountain with an 80-pound barrel on her back.

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