Harlan County, USA (Kopple, 1976) is still a gut punch some fifty years later. Watching the violent and bloody events unfold as miners strike to be recognized for their union organization, for better wages and more safety measures, and simply to live by the end of their shift, their voices ring as sad and as true as they did in the 1930s when they were fighting the same fight, and today, when the industry is still a battleground.
Director Barbara Kopple and crew had not set out to find themselves in the middle of the action. They were first exploring the UMWA’s much-contested election, and realized that the story developing was one they could not turn away from. So they stayed, and many of the miners and their families credit their work with bringing an end to the strike and preventing more bloodshed.
The stakes couldn’t be higher: adequate living conditions like running water and indoor plumbing against the real possibility of starvation and death if the miners do not accept the contract, as well as the bloody violence inflicted upon them. What would you do?
What you’ll find in this episode: a discussion of why traditional music seems timeless, whether the strike accomplished anything, and whether we would lay down our lives for our families.
Links and Recommendations:
Check out Harlan County, USA on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Stop at Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Salt of the Earth.
Hazel Dickens’ Which Side Are You On?
More on the Aberfan disaster in Wales.