The Pickers shows a group of Romanian migrant workers at a UK strawberry farm who alternate their intensive strawberry picking with the editing and mediation of a 20th century film archive of British migrant hop pickers. Sited in a parallel reality distinctions are blurred as to where and when events are set, as they are between notions of labour and leisure, and the identity of an archive and its dissemination. ‘The Pickers’ becomes a dream; a Romanian advertisement to British migrant workers to come to Romania.
Maja and Reuben Fowkes wrote about this film in Art Monthly:
A curious prequel to recent developments could be seen in Adam Chodzko’s insightftul 2009 film The Pickers, which addressed the nuances of economic migration by following the story of a group of young Romanians working in the strawberry industry in Kent. The scenario revolves around young East European labourers engaged in editing archive footage of seasonal hop pickers from the East End and reflecting on their own experience of working on a state-of-the-art agricultural plant in Kent. Scenes of men, women and children worhng together in the outdoors while blithely chatting away appear idyllically stress-free in comparison to the depersonalised, high-tech world of industrial market gardening, where every action of the labourer is scanned and calculated. In a moment of reverie, the Romanian worker-editors imagine a future in which the British would be attracted to make the reverse journey to work on Romanian farms, where the importance of workers’ relationship to the land and the social quality of labour are not yet extinct notions.