2021 Rochester Labor Film Series
September 3 - October 30
All films shown at the Eastman House Dryden Theater, 900 East Avenue
Friday, September 3, 7:30 p.m.
Nine to Five
(Colin Higgins, US 1980, 109 min., DCP)
After suffering endless harassment from their male chauvinist supervisor (Dabney Coleman), office workers Judy (Jane Fonda), Violet (Lily Tomlin), and Doralee
(Dolly Parton) take matters into their own hands, putting their boss under lock and key and transforming the workplace into a haven of equality and efficiency.
Fonda's own company produced this comedy, which was released just as women clerical workers were organizing into unions such as SEIU Local 925, and when the
backlash against career-oriented women was gaining momentum. Because the workplace issues depicted continue to trouble many women workers today, the film's humor
remains fresh. Both groundbreaking and funny, Nine To Five boasts a quartet of brilliant performances and an Oscar-nominated song that galvanized the
Friday, September 10, 7:30 p.m.
The Grapes of Wrath
(John Ford, US 1940, 129 min., 35mm)
A confluence of talents all contributing some of their finest work makes The Grapes of Wrath one of the greatest epics in American cinema: the novel by
John Steinbeck, the direction of John Ford, the acting of Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, and John Carradine, and the black-and-white mastery of cinematographer Gregg
Toland. The Depression drives Tom Joad and his family from the Dust Bowl to California in search of work and dignity. Ford's version of Steinbeck's novel was a
tough pill for Hollywood in 1940, and one that Steinbeck himself claimed was more devastating than the book. The film received seven Academy Award nominations,
winning for Ford's direction and Darwell's supporting performance as Ma Joad. Given the pressures on American farmers today, this movie is as relevant as it was
just after the Great Depression.
Friday, September 17, 7:30 p.m.
The Bicycle Thieves
(Ladri di biciclette, Vittorio De Sica, Italy 1948, 89 min., 35mm, Italian w/subtitles)
2020 105m documentary
In this founding film of the neorealist movement, De Sica used non-actors, including Lamberto Maggiorani as Ricci, a poster-hanger who relies on his bicycle to
make a living. While he is busy with his son Bruno, the bicycle is stolen and the two embark on an odyssey of despair. Their efforts to find the bicycle are
fruitless, forcing this proud man to make a difficult choice: to steal or go hungry. Not an exploration of political or collective struggle, The Bicycle
Thieves shows the inextricable link between personal hardship and the perverse economic order.
Friday, September 24, 7:30 p.m.
Harlan County U.S.A.
(Barbara Kopple, US 1976, 103 min., 35mm)
Intending to cover struggles in the labor movement and the United Mine Workers of America in particular, filmmaker Barbara Kopple was on hand to capture the
Brookside miners' strike in 1973. Filmed over a turbulent year in the lives of striking Kentucky coal miners, Harlan County, U.S.A., is a visceral
account of their explosive standoff with a harsh, at times violent, mining company. This gripping, human documentary is so pure, its effect so galvanizing, that
it mesmerized the 1976 New York Film Festival. Armed with handheld 16mm cameras and synchronous sound-on-tape recording, Kopple and her crew were able to gain
unprecedented access to the front lines of a labor standoff.
Friday, October 1, 7:30 p.m.
(La Noire de..., Ousmane Sembene, France/Senegal 1966, 65 min., DCP, French w/subtitles)
One of cinema's landmark works, Black Girl is the first African feature-length film produced and directed by an African and the first to be widely seen
by Western audiences. The story follows a young Senegalese girl who moves to France to work as a domestic servant for a wealthy family who had employed her in
Dakar. The father of African cinema, Sembene deftly explores the themes of colonialism and exploitation in this powerful movie, for which he wrote the
Friday, October 8, 7:30 p.m.
(Martin Ritt, US 1979, 114 min., DCP)
Deservedly taking home the Best Actress Oscar for her brilliant turn as a complex young woman worker in a southern textile plant, Sally Field shines. As
conditions in the plant force workers to consider unionizing, a Jewish labor organizer from New York City arrives, cultures clash, and tempers rise. From start to
finish, Field plays her kaleidoscopic part perfectly. As Vincent Canby noted, "Watching this actress give life to a woman of grit and guts, of humor and
compassion, without worrying about the consequences, is the kind of marvelous experience we don't often see in movies."
Friday, October 15, 7:30 p.m.
Sacco e Vanzetti
(Giuliano Montaldo, Italy/France 1971, 120 min. English, Italian with subtitles)
Based on the true story of one of the most notorious trials in American judicial history. Nicola Sacco (Ricardo Cucciola) and Bartolomeo Vanzetti (Gian Maria
Volonte) were Italian immigrants in 1920 Massachusetts. Admitted anarchists, the police arrested them for a robbery-murder based on presumption and specious
evidence. Concerned as much about their political orientation as the evidence before them, the court ultimately finds them guilty and sentences them to death.
This re-telling of their story is a classic not only of labor films, but of Italian cinema. Bolstered by a score from Ennio Morricone, the music also features
lyrics written and sung by Joan Baez, including "The Ballad of Sacco and Vanzetti" and "Here's to You."
Friday, October 22, 7:30 p.m.
(Craig Zobel, US 2012, 90 min., DCP)
Based on an actual event in 2004, this controversial film looks at the plight of minimum wage workers and their susceptibility to manipulation. A fast food
restaurant receives a call from someone claiming to be a policeman investigating theft at the restaurant. The manager, Sandra (Ann Dowd), convinced that the
police have identified one of her employees, Becky (Dreama Walker), passes on orders from the commanding voice on the telephone. Sandra takes Becky to the back of
the store and conducts the investigation, but as the requests become stranger and more lurid, tensions rise and morality is questioned. The 1961 Milgram
experiment on obedience to authority comes to mind as the film forces us to consider social control in the workplace. Director Craig Zobel (Mare of Easttown)
ratchets up the tension and discomfort in this tight thriller.
Saturday, October 30, 7:30 p.m.
(Alex Rivera, US/Mexico 2008, 90 min., 35mm, English, Spanish w/subtitles)
In a near future of airtight international borders and militarized corporate warriors, an underground class of workers plug their nervous systems into a global
computer network, becoming "cybraceros," who manipulate robots from afar. When a young Mexican leaves his dying farm to become a "node worker" in the city, he
stumbles across a sinister transmission that will pave the way for the cities of the future. Writer-director Alex Rivera's prescient and socially-committed work
of science fiction won two prizes at the Sundance Film Festival.