The Phantom of the Operator (Le Fantôme de l'Opératrice)

Canada, DVD, 2004, 65’

The 20th century had its invisible workforce: telephone operators. Not just "voices with a smile", they were shooting stars in a universe of infinite progress. They were the test pilots for the management systems of their time. The Phantom of the Operator reveals them in a unique montage, crafted from 150 rarely seen commercial publicity and corporate education and management films produced in North America between 1903 and 1989. Splicing together fantastic remnants of the bygone century into a dreamlike documentary, the first independent feature by Montréal filmmaker Caroline Martel proposes a wry yet ethereal portrait of human society in a technocratic age. It brings out from the shadows not only the “voices with a smile”, but also some amazing 20th century corporate films, as well as an arcane electronic musical instrument, the Ondes Martenot, played by Suzanne Binet-Audet.
The film has been screened internationally at some forty film festivals, including Toronto (TIFF), Amsterdam (IDFA), Taipei and Leipzig, and following its US premiere at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA), it won the Best Experimental Film Award at the Brooklyn Underground Film Festival.

˝Almost ten years have passed since I began my archaeological exploration of the many faces of the operators – these women working in the service of the last century’s communication systems. Having witnessed first-hand the last moments of their history while shooting Hold the Line, I began to sense that the images left of them in the corporate archives had indeed become just like phantoms, ranks of smiling simulacra.˝ (Caroline Martel)


Organisation: City of Women
In collaboration with: Tovarna Rog


Date and time of event: 
Oct 08th 20:30
Place of event: 
Tovarna Rog