Location la: Bartos Screening Room
With introduction by Robert Greene
Dir. John Sayles. 1987, 132 mins. 35mm. With Chris Cooper, James Earl Jones, Mary McDonnell, Will Oldham. When the Stone Mountain Coal Company announces a cut in wages, the miners’s response is to strike. The company responds by importing black and Italian workers to take their place. Enter someone else from out of town: union organizer Joe Kenehan (Cooper, in a breakout performance), who tries to unite all parties in solidarity. “You work, they don’t,” he says—and with the clearest of words the clearest of lines are drawn. Us vs. them, workers vs. capital, all careening towards an inevitable, tragic collision. Dramatic machinations of the union, including internal racial tensions, animate John Sayles’s superbly acted, beautifully photographed (Haskell Wexler received an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography) classic work of Socialist-Realist agitprop. An essential work of labor cinema. —Robert Greene
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