Image above: Still from Love & Labor, 21:25 minutes. A film by Stephanie Andreou, Sarah Keeling and Adrián Gutiérrez. Courtesy of the artists and UnionDocs.
A couple originally hailing from Mexico, Fran and Gabriela are drawn together by their love for each other and a shared belief in revolutionary economic ideas. Following a long career creating art related to economic systems, Fran Ilich – an accomplished and internationally recognized writer, media artist and hacktivist – and Gabriela Ceja – an artist engaging with labor rights and union activism – find themselves in a small 1 bedroom apartment in the Bronx. Fran works part-time in retail while Gaby works with labor unions improving workers rights, they also rent out their living room on AirBnb to make extra income.
This intimate observational portrait follows Fran and Gaby in their everyday activities, getting to know their world views through earnest dialogue and playful arguments. They structure their lives to create time for a joint project called, the Diego de la Vega Coffee Cooperative. Collaborating with friends and family in Mexico, they purchase Zapatista coffee from the southernmost state, Chiapas, mailing it as cheaply as possible to NY. Fran and Gaby serve the coffee at a “pay what you can” rate at community events where they can share the ideas about the Zapatistas alternative economic systems, pre-Colombian indigenous ways of life and anti-capitalist rhetoric. Selling the coffee, whether at the events, a temporary installation of a coffee-shop or through their CSA, allows them to purchase the next round of coffee and financially support the Zapatistas in a way that feels true to their ideals. Faced with challenges, they are persistent with their efforts and strive to make their ideologies work at least for themselves. Inspired by the Zapatistas “utopia”, Fran and Gaby work to create their own, finding the smallest workable unit of a utopia is a system of two.
We see them working together while contemplating the city and how to penetrate a system that enslaves those who make it possible. What materializes between them is a shared vision that they work little-by-little to realize. Idealism, their love for each other and sacrifice make-up part of their everyday struggle and together they face the challenges and absurd humors of living within a society that does not represent their ideals. For both, love becomes an alternative to traditional forms of labor as they find a way to live in this city while supporting the causes they believe in.