A testament to the crucial work of labor unions, Barbara Kopple's 1976 documentary is as resonant now as when it was made.
Barbara Kopple's Academy Award-winning documentary is as crucial now as when it was made, nearly 40 years ago. Nominally a documentary about the 1973 strike by Kentucky mineworkers, Harlan County U.S.A. observes a way of life in transition. As miners and their families protest unconscionably dangerous working conditions, they find a collective purpose and voice. At the same time, the film itself becomes integral to these 180 families' experiences, as they come to see the usefulness of being filmed and being so visible. With multiple focuses on the community's resilience and faith, humility and intelligence, with scenes on the picket line and in meetings conducted by wives and daughters, it illustrates the toughness of a long-lived, deeply meaningful culture, manifest in music and dialogue and dress. Working together, the film crew and the community made history.
The screening tonight, which closes Stranger Than Fiction's Winter Season, is followed by a Q&A with Kopple.
See PopMatters' review.