Frame from Cantos de trabalho: Canade- açúcar [Work Songs: Sugarcane], 1976
Leon Hirszman’s films have the concept of work as a raw material and guiding principle. Assuming that the worker is the agent responsible for transforming history, Hirszman considered his task as a cinematographer to be that of organizing the records of the various forms of struggle and resistance of this social class, turning these into its memory. The artist’s films bear the mark of concrete historical experiences, such as the strikes of metalworkers in São Paulo’s ABC region in the 1970s. This is also the case in Cantos de trabalho [Work Songs], a trilogy filmed between 1974 and 1976 in the cities of Chã Preta, Alagoas State, Itabuna, Bahia State and Feira de Santana, Bahia State. In each location, rural workers were filmed performing their activities: collectively kneading clay; harvesting and crushing cocoa; and harvesting sugarcane, respectively. While working, they sing songs that set their rhythm while establishing the sociability involved in the collective physical effort. Filmed in a language that seeks precise times and frames to reveal work in all its details, the documentaries are accompanied by a narration that emphasizes the importance of recording this cultural practice that, even then, was starting to disappear.