Harlan County USA (1976, Barbara Kopple)

Fast, Cheap and Out of Control was the last movie in my documentary month series with Katy, but now Jimmy is doing his own documentary month. Katy didn’t come to this one (sadly, since it was better than almost any of the movies we watched at home). Story of coal miners in Kentucky who decide to join a labor union. The mine won’t recognize the union, so they strike. Tensions escalate between the old miners and the new scab workers, finally one of the old miners is shot and killed. A day or two later the mine lets them back to work, the union in place. Then a couple months after the year-long strike, another strike, this organized by the union leaders for higher pay and safer conditions.

Wonderful story, engrossing movie, with great bluegrass music. I’ll bet Chris Marker liked it.

Won best doc at the ’77 Oscars. Barbara Kopple went on to co-direct Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing, a movie I was just mocking in the video store the other day. IMDB trivia: “When filming began, the film was intended to be about the 1972 campaign by Arnold Miller and Miners For Democracy to unseat UMWA president Tony Boyle, in the aftermath of Joseph Yablonski’s murder; but the Harlan County strike began and caused the filmmakers to change their principal subject, with the campaign and murder becoming secondary subjects.”

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