Thursday, January 29, 2015

State of the union

No matter what you think of unions, you'll want to see this film.

The crew was obviously embedded in the '74 Harlan County coal miner strike for so long that they eventually just became part of the ongoing circus as well as the lulls in the action. Hence, no cloying partisan narrator "guides" you through the story; the people living it speak for themselves--the hallmark of top-notch documentary.

As for editing, Barbara Kopple clearly knew what she was doing, and what a job that must have been (your humble hostess reeeaaally loves a good editing job and can spot it like a hawk). The final cut is all about the real moments, not those wherein subjects play to the camera.

The gritty cinematography perfectly captures these people at this point in their lives. This film centers around a strike, but in doing so, it honestly exposes an entire culture. This is 100 minutes of absolutely captivating film.

If all of that is too lofty, go for the cars and the clothes and the cigarettes. Go for the miners' wives, because you really want to meet the miners' wives (seriously BADASS).

No go on and get this one in your queue.

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Anonymous said...

"Don't scab for the bosses,
Don't listen to their lies.
Us poor folks haven't got a chance
Unless we organize."

"Which side are you on?"

Florence Reese 1931. Written about Harlan County.

Have been to Black Mountain, the highest point in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which is in Harlan County. In that area one can drive around in Kentucky and Virginia and see the consequences of Mountain Top Removal. Cars have bumper stickers which read "Friend of Coal."
Remember when the doc came out. Will have to set aside time to view it.


Erin O'Brien said...

I believe Florence makes an appearance in the film, RJ.

Anonymous said...

Not our Countries proudest moments.

Anonymous said...

"Clean coal" is easy to achieve when the detritus gets chucked in the nearest watershed.


Anonymous said...

@MR +1! Absolutely right. Everybody seems to know this except mine owners, and I suspect they do, as well, except that for their knowledge to be of benefit, they also have to care.

This knowledge had its beginnings when rural people began noticing that the water from wells situated near their outhouses always reminded its drinkers of meals recently eaten. Yum!

«Senex Ægypti Parvi»

Anonymous said...


R.I.P. Lawrence Jones

Which side are you on?


Craig Hughes said...

It is a great film. I saw it in college as part of my PoliSci course load. I had a great prof (SDS President when he was in school) who knew how to create great dialog. Since we were many times on different sides of the argument I had to be on my toes. This film created a lot of questions.

Another thing about good editing is that the film ages well.

Anonymous said...

@ Erin/Craig--(and everyone else I suppose)--After the discussion here re Harlan County Kentucky, I picked up "Matewan" at the library, a John Sayles film dramatizing coal miner efforts to organize in 1920. As in his "Eight Men Out" Sayles combines an affinity for time and place with attention to detail and some wicked performances.

I enjoyed seeing it again so thanks to Erin for dusting off the memories. I wanted to mention it to all because I can't imagine smart people disliking it.