8/29/2006

Documentary Film Of The Day - Harlan County, U.S.A....

I don't know about you, but I have no memory of ever learning about labor struggles in this country while in school. Most of the time was spent on wars and political matters. In my adult years I've been learning more and more the things that were withheld. For those of you interested in a comprehensive alternative look at American History, I still recommend Howard Zinn's book, A People's History Of The United States, 1492-Present. I've found documentaries to be another good source of a lot of the untold history of our country. Barbara Kopple made two Oscar-winning films about labor struggles. One was American Dream about a meatpacker's strike in Minnesota. The other was Harlan County, U.S.A. It follows the story of coal miners in Harlan County, Kentucky trying to organize while being threatened by agents of the mine owners - scabs and gun thugs. A lot of times people assume documentaries are dry and clinical. This one is not. The camera is right in the middle of a lot of intense situations involving angry, armed individuals. There is also a lot of footage that illustrates what a miner's life is like, both in the mine and out. It is shot the way I prefer, with minimal interaction between the camera and the subject. A fascinating piece of history.

4 comments:

Megan said...

1) Howard Zinn fucking ROCKS! Another good book along those same line is Lies My Teacher Told Me. Not as comprehensive, but very good.

2) When I used to teach US History, I totally covered labor issues.

3) You are a well-spring of documentary film info! Could you like maybe go through my Human Geography syllabus and tell me what films I should be showing? There's a limit to how many times kids will watch Baraka> throughout the year. :)

Chris said...

Megan-I like being called a well-spring. It's true, I watch a shitload of documentaries. I'd be happy to recommend stuff. Baraka happens to be one of my favorite films.

Megan said...

Wow, you would?! I was really only kidding, but that would actually be awesome. If it wouldn't be crossing some sort of blog anonymity line. I'll get back to you.

We in Human Geography class are also big fans of Baraka, and we can watch the monkey chant segment till the cows come home. I actually did a post about my kids and Baraka back in June I think.

Chris said...

I went back and read your post - very cool. I love that part of the movie! I'm actually flattered to be asked to recommend stuff and as far as anonymity, I figure people who read my stuff regularly know me pretty well by now. I don't know if I'll be any help, but I'll try.