Harlan County, USA

( 1 )

Overview

Director Barbara Kopple's look at a 13-month coal miners' strike that took place between 1973 and 1974 in Harlan County, KY, is one of the great films about labor troubles, though not for a sense of objectivity. Kopple lived among the miners and their families off and on during the four years the entire story played out, and it's clear in every frame of the film that her sympathies lie with the miners and not their bosses at Eastover Mining, owned by Duke Power Company. Kopple's camera focuses on the desperate ...
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Overview

Director Barbara Kopple's look at a 13-month coal miners' strike that took place between 1973 and 1974 in Harlan County, KY, is one of the great films about labor troubles, though not for a sense of objectivity. Kopple lived among the miners and their families off and on during the four years the entire story played out, and it's clear in every frame of the film that her sympathies lie with the miners and not their bosses at Eastover Mining, owned by Duke Power Company. Kopple's camera focuses on the desperate plight of people still living in shacks with no indoor plumbing and working dangerous jobs with little security and few safety rules. The miners are determined to join the United Mine Workers, and the company is determined to break the strike with scabs, who are even more desperate than the men with jobs. The miners eventually win a new contract, though it turns out that some of the benefits they had fought for were not included in the final deal. The filmmaker's strong identification with one side of a labor struggle doesn't make for a balanced historical record, but it did provide the right stuff for a powerfully dramatic film.
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Editorial Reviews

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.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 11/16/1999
  • UPC: 720229907798
  • Original Release: 1976
  • Rating:

  • Source: First Run Features
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Technical Credits
Barbara Kopple Director, Producer, Sound/Sound Designer
Nancy Baker Editor
Mirra Bank Editor
Hazel Dickens Score Composer
Tom Hurwitz Cinematographer
Kevin Keating Cinematographer
Mary Lampson Editor
Phil Parmet Cinematographer
Hart Perry Cinematographer
Merle Travis Score Composer
Josh Waletsky Sound/Sound Designer
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 1 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2003

    Amazing that such a travisty was perpatrated so recently as the early 70's!

    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?

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews