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Early Errol Morris documentary intersplices random chatter he captured on film of the genuinely eccentric residents of Vernon, Florida. A few examples? The preacher giving a sermon on the ... See full summary »
This film documents the coal miners' strike against the Brookside Mine of the Eastover Mining Company in Harlan County, Kentucky in June, 1973. Eastovers refusal to sign a contract (when the miners joined with the United Mine Workers of America) led to the strike, which lasted more than a year and included violent battles between gun-toting company thugs/scabs and the picketing miners and their supportive women-folk. Director Barbara Kopple puts the strike into perspective by giving us some background on the historical plight of the miners and some history of the UMWA. Written by
Martin Lewison <email@example.com>
When filming began, the film was intended to be about the 1972 campaign by Arnold Miller and Miners For Democracy to unseat UMWA president Tony Boyle, in the aftermath of Joseph Yablonski's murder; but the Harlan County strike began and caused the filmmakers to change their principal subject, with the campaign and murder becoming secondary subjects. See more »
I used to consider Gates of Heaven and Harlan County USA as in deadlock for the best documentary ever made, but upon watching Harlan County USA again and all the extras available on the Criterion DVD, I have no choice but to move it into the sole number One position. The sense of dread and danger of Harlan County USA elevates it to a whole new level, making it perhaps the most watchable documentary ever made as well - its tense subject matter and the incredible footage captured by Kopple and her crew make it play as a feature film. Kopple's intimate participatory style makes the film even more poignant. The film crew was there with the strikers, amidst the bullets and beatings, at one point being singled out for attack and were beaten by the mining company militants. That they were there meant that they got some absolutely incredible footage, such as the scene described above, and when they catch the main strike breaker pointing his gun at them on film.
Harlan County USA is also an important social document, now housed in the national film registry for preservation. Scenes such as children being washed in buckets, in the 1970s, in the "beacon of freedom and democracy" The United States of America, really get beyond the rhetoric and show how the government and the big business agenda often trumps the rights of workers - its about maximizing profits not lives.
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