And so we’ll talk about more films, the AFL-CIO’s Working Class Heroes recommendations.
- Harlan County U.S.A. (1976, Barbara Kopple)
Winner of the 1976 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, this film follows a UMWA strike against a Duke Power Company subsidiary. Kopple filmed on the picket lines, in the miners’ homes, the union hall and corporate offices to produce an incredibly vivid, compelling account. Mountain culture is also front and center with music by Hazel Dickens and an interview with Florence Reece, during which the 76 year old activist sings her 1931 classic “Which Side Are You On?” a cappella.
- Hula Girls (2006, Sang-il Lee)
A Japanese mountain community is devastated when the coal mine that employees most of its workers closes. Village leaders decide to open an Hawaiian style resort to create jobs, When they hire a professional dancer to teach local girls the hula, conservative parents are shocked. They are eventually won over by the girls’ tenacity and the beauty of their performances.
- Man of Iron (Człowiek z żelaza) (1981, Andrzej Wajda)
An intricate mix of historical footage and dramatic narrative, Man of Iron tells the stories of workers and labor spies during the Polish Solidarity movement’s fight for recognition. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and won the 1981 Cannes Film Festival Palme d’or. Lech Walesa actually appears in the film as an extra in a wedding scene.
- Man Push Cart (2005, Ramin Bahrani)A Pakistani immigrant – a former pop singer at home — struggles to make a living in New York with a breakfast pushcart. Up in the middle of the night to prepare his cart, he pushes it down busy Manhattan streets to serve office workers coffee and bagels. In the process, he meets a young Spanish woman who is working in her family’s pushcart business and some high flying customers who may be able to offer opportunities for a better life.
- Matewan (1987, John Sayles)
Sayles’ film is based on the Battle of Matewan, a bloody 1920 confrontation between striking miners, who had been evicted from their company homes, and Baldwin-Felts detectives, hired by the Stone Mountain Coal Company to break the strike. It was filmed on location in West Virginia. Hazel Dickens appears in the film and sings the title song, ‘Fire in the Hole.’
- Modern Times (1936, Charlie Chaplin)
Modern Times is Charlie Chapin’s slapstick study of the alienating effects of the assembly line, time studies and automation. This was his final silent film.
- Mondays in the Sun (2002, Fernando León de Aranoa)
Workers left idle by the closure of shipyards in a small Spanish port city cope with the debilitating effects of unemployment and dim prospects for new work.
- The Navigators (2001, Ken Loach)
Rail workers are baffled and frustrated as various parts of the British Railway System are sold off and bargaining unit jobs are out-sourced, often to incompetent and unscrupulous private employers. Degenerating safety conditions ultimately precipitate tragedy.
- Norma Rae (1979, Martin Ritt)
Sallie Field’s portrayal of textile worker Norma Rae won her an Academy Award for Best Actress. Driven by despair over the dreadful working conditions at a cotton mill, Norma Rae teams up with a union organizer to lead a strike. The film was also nominated for Best Picture.
- North Country (2005, Niki Caro)
Charlize Theron leaves her abusive husband and gets a job with her friend (played by Frances McDormand) working in an iron mine. She endures salacious remarks and ugly pranks from male workers and is sexually assaulted at work. When she files a class action lawsuit, some of her women co-workers resist fearing loss of their jobs. The film is a fictionalized account of a landmark sexual harassment case. Theron and McDormand were nominated for Academy Awards.