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Harlan County, USA

Harlan County, USA

5.0 1
Director: Barbara Kopple

Cast: Barbara Kopple

Barbara Kopple's Harlan County, USA was one of the most important and powerful political documentaries of the 1970s, a startling and compelling look at a bitter coal miner's strike in Kentucky in the early '70s, and this DVD release of the film from The Criterion Collection treats Kopple's work like the masterpiece it is. This edition of Harlan County,


Barbara Kopple's Harlan County, USA was one of the most important and powerful political documentaries of the 1970s, a startling and compelling look at a bitter coal miner's strike in Kentucky in the early '70s, and this DVD release of the film from The Criterion Collection treats Kopple's work like the masterpiece it is. This edition of Harlan County, USA has been transferred to disc in letterboxed format at the widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (while the film was shot in 16 mm at the 1.33:1 ratio, this disc reflects the presentation of the 35 mm blow-up used for theatrical release), and has been enhanced for anamorphic play on 16 x 9 monitors. While the grain of the 16 mm image is apparent throughout, this transfer is noticeably clearer and sharper than Harlan County, USA's previous releases on video, and the colors are clear without being pushed into excessive brightness. The audio has been mastered in Dolby Digital Mono and is crisp and full of presence, despite the occasional (and unavoidable) flaws of documentary field recording. The film is in English, with no multiple language options. Among the bonus materials are 26 minutes of deleted sequences from the film, a 21-minute documentary on the movie's long and difficult production (including interviews with Kopple and her associates), an onscreen interview with filmmaker John Sayles, who talks about his appreciation of Harlan County, USA and its influences on his own picture Matewan, and a conversation with singer Hazel Dickens, who discusses growing up in coal country and her music (which was used in the picture). Roger Ebert hosted a panel discussion on Harlan County, USA at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, and footage from that presentation has also been included. Kopple and editor Nancy Baker contribute a lively and fascinating commentary track in which they offer still more background on how the movie was made. The original theatrical trailer for Harlan County, USA rounds out the disc, and the package includes a handsome booklet with essays from Paul Arthur and Jon Weisberger. Few films say as much about class, labor, and the battle for economic equality -- and say it with such simple eloquence -- as Harlan County, USA, and Criterion's DVD release is easily the definitive presentation of this landmark in documentary moviemaking.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Emily Fisher
In Harlan County, USA, documentarian Barbara Kopple created a humanist masterpiece -- a testament to the enduring strength of America's working-class poor. This harrowing document of the confrontation between striking Kentucky coal miners and the monolithic Duke Power and Electric Company took four years to complete, during which Kopple and her crew lived with the coal miners' families for months at a time. The filmmaker makes no attempt to hide her bias for the workers: The faceless corporation is portrayed as a brutal machine sending its hired goons to terrorize the hapless strikers, while the miners families diligently support the cause, even as money becomes scarce. (She visited similar territory in 1990 with American Dream, about a strike at a Hormel plant in Minnesota.) An Academy Award winner upon its release, Harlan County, USA was included in the Library of Congress's National Film Registry in 1990 -- an honor befitting its status as one of the great documentaries of our tim
All Movie Guide - Tom Wiener
It's hard to believe that no great documentary films came out of the labor struggles of the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, when unions such as the Teamsters, the United Auto Workers, and the United Mine Workers waged battles (sometimes literally) with management over basic issues that had been woefully neglected for many years. With Harlan County, USA, Barbara Kopple is able to distill many details of those earlier conflicts: the exploited workers, the bosses complaining about lost profits in the wake of rising wages and stricter safety precautions, and the divisions between the working men on strike and those desperate enough to break the picket line for any paycheck. She can do this because she lived the story for four years in a honest effort to tell all, and did not just drop in for a week as so many TV journalists seem to do. Though Kopple is clearly on the side of the miners, it's difficult to imagine a so-called objective filmmaker doing a more effective job of presenting the issues involved in this struggle. Most importantly, Harlan County, USA shows how a strong sense of community is the workers' greatest ally; the miners' wives and girlfriends offer not only moral support but even do the sometimes dangerous duty of walking the picket lines.

Product Details

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Original Release:
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[Wide Screen]
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Special Features

New, restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by producer-director Barbara Kopple; Audio commentary by Kopple and editor Nancy Baker; "The Making of 'Harlan County USA,'" a new documentary featuring interviews with Kopple, crew members, and strike participants featured in the film; Never-before-seen outtakes from the film; New video interview with legendary bluegrass singer-songwriter Hazel Dickens; New video interview with director John Sayles; A panel discussion from the 2005 Sundance Film Festival featuring Kopple and Roger Ebert; Original theatrical trailer; Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing; Plus new essays by film scholar Paul Arthur and music journalist Jon Weisberger

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Harlan County USA
1. In the Mines [5:43]
2. On Strike [6:28]
3. Lessons Learned [2:55]
4. First Month [3:12]
5. The Women [3:05]
6. Jail Time [3:27]
7. The Company [3:26]
8. "You Got Dental?" [1:48]
9. Stockholders [2:23]
10. Mannington Mine [3:35]
11. Black Lung [5:05]
12. Cold-Blooded Murder [4:22]
13. Miners for Democracy [3:09]
14. "Which Side Are You On?" [2:37]
15. Gun Thugs [7:11]
16. Infighting [3:24]
17. Lois's Gun [1:56]
18. "Fight Fire With Fire" [7:03]
19. Arrest Warrant [4:26]
20. Union Support [3:58]
21. Lawrence Jones [1:00]
22. Contract Accepted [6:46]
23. Right to Ratify [3:43]
24. Back to Work [6:45]
25. "They'll Never Keep Us Down" [2:19]
26. Color Bars [4:30]

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5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Coal miners wife Ruby, was a heroin indeed! Gave the appearance of an uneducated hillbilly with a high I.Q.. Displayed charactor, idealism, and held to the fact that a principle of right was worth standing for. To quote line, ....''if it don't taste good, you spit it out. That is what God gave us a tongue fer.'' Although this atrosity took place in the 70's, we still see the coruption and greed of upper tycoons who run rough-shod over the vital/grass root and backbone workers. Perhaps rough-shod is not the proper word here, I should say,... thoes who would reward the straw bosses and persecute the workers. Employee's are important, they have names, souls, families and feelings. They are not just faceless, nameless, production, expendable entities, or numbers entered into a computer. It is such folk of hardy true grit and hard working stock from all races that has made that county what it is today! Unfortunaltly we still have such Examples of criminal and usury behaviour today, such the recently exposed lower class executives of Enron, WorldCom, Tyco executives and on and on. The selling out of the American worker for their own greed and selfishness. If we do not learn from the lessons of history, then history will indeed repeat itself in the future. Heart warming, heart throbing, and heart felt. Difinetly a heart land and a heart beat of intestinal fortitude throughout! Say, do they have a six star rating?