Hot Docs 2017 Review: “Shiners” (2017) ★★★

There is no such thing as a bad or unsuitable job. Most of us go to work on a daily basis for many reasons: some do that because there are bills to be paid; some hope of winning the lottery and quit their job; some won’t quit their job even if they win the lottery because they love what they do. Funny, isn’t it? Well, Stacey Tenenbaum’s SHINERS gave me food for thought. In her film, she highlighted different people’s life, culture, financial being, and one job that they do for only one reason – to make your shoes shinier.

It begins with New York and his proud resident, Don, who spent his last sixteen years and still counting, in one of Big Apple’s busy corner to talk, interact and shine people’s shoes. Don says an interesting thing, “shoes don’t lie”. And yes, they indeed do not, when you see them before and after they have been taking care of by Don. Right after New York, the viewer is taken to Bolivia’s La Paz where you find Balloo, a man who continues the legacy of his father as a shoe shiner. Despite the job he is proud of doing, Balloo and his colleagues wear a mask while they are in the street awaiting customers. The reason for that is astonishing – but at the end of the day, if the mask helps them to avoid discrimination, then why not?

But it is not always sad watching Tenenbaum’s SHINERS, as the viewer gets the chance to travel around the globe within a short amount of time where now it’s Tokyo and Yuya, a man who’s significantly different from any documentary subject you see. It’s not like he is better or worse than anyone else, but what he does is truly amazing, as he, at least for me, changes the whole meaning of being a shoe shiner. Yuya explains his reasons why he wears a suit and spends an hour to shine shoes. His artistic approach to a simple and seemingly uncomplicated job is something most of us should learn from.

At less than one hour and half of runtime, you will get the chance to walk into Kevin’s Kevin & CO New York office where he has employees who as proudly as himself are serving the customers and helping them out to look presentable through their crystal clean shoes. I guess the most heartbreaking part of SHINERS is the story of Bolivia and her choice to be in the streets as a shoe shiner. Since she has three kids, Sylvia no longer wants them to go to kindergarten due to the abuse they had to face. The woman takes all her children outside with her, to earn money and provide a better future for them.

In SHINERS, you see amazingly unique stories. Some of them can make you laugh, but some bring you down to Earth to examine once again how different the 21st Century can be… How much a shoe shiner job can provide to people living in different parts of the world. In the end, Tenenbaum’s SHINERS is an important documentary film to watch. It explores the passion of people you might never meet in person, but start admiring them for what they do. Because, at the end of the day, it’s not so much fun to do any job if you feel you have to, but not because you love it. Here, in SHINERS, you will see a different picture, the true love towards a job many of us would not dare to do, but a job that brings more light and happiness to everyone’s life… because after watching down on your shoes and finding them so clean and shining, what else do you need to feel yourself more confident?

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