2014 Labor Film Series
All films shown at the Eastman House Dryden Theater, 900 East Avenue.
September 5 - November 2
Friday, September 5, 8 p.m.
NINE TO FIVE
(Colin Higgins, US, 1980, 110 min.)
Jane Fonda is a divorcee who takes a secretarial job and is soon befriended by co-workers Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton . Constantly harassed by their male chauvinist boss (Dabney Coleman), the trio plots a cabal in the interest of women’s rights and workplace 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.
Sunday, September 7, 2 p.m.
WALMART: THE HIGH COST OF LOW PRICE
(Robert Greenwald, US 2005, 90 min.) Post-screening discussion.
Documentary filmmaker Greenwald (Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism and The Koch Brothers Exposed) takes the viewer on a deeply personal journey into the everyday lives of families struggling to fight this retail goliath. From a family business owner in the Midwest to a preacher in California, from workers in Florida to a poet in Mexico, dozens of film crews on three continents bring the intensely personal stories of Walmart's assault on families and American values.
In November 2005 the film was screened 3000 times in 19 countries and all 50 states — the largest grassroots mobilization in movie history. Walmart was so concerned about the impact this film might have that it hired Edelman PR to set up a campaign-style war room, and hired Reagan and Clinton media consultants to lead a counteroffensive, even making a video to refute alleged factual errors.
Since then Walmart has only expanded its retail dominance and intensified exploitation of its workers. If you missed or forgot this film, you need to see it and stay for the post-screening discussion.
8 p.m. Friday, September 12, 8 p.m.
(Michael Glawogger, Austria 2005, 122 min.)
One of the most memorable labor films we've screened, Glawogger's documentary commemorates the significance of heavy manual labor and its cost in human life. The film’s segments on Ukrainian coal miners, Indonesian sulphur miners, Nigerian slaughterhouse workers, Pakistani shipbreakers, and Chinese steel workers, like the photographs of Sebastiano Salgado, both celebrate and lament the labor it depicts. The film throws into question claims about the possibility of a world without work and underscores issues of occupational health and safety. With Glawogger's unexpected death in April, we have lost an astute observer of the globalization of labor.
Sunday, September 21, 8 p.m.
(Charles Chaplin, US 1936, 85 min.)
Directed and scored by Chaplin and co-starring Paulette Goddard, this nearly silent classic indicts industrialization and modernization from the point of view of Chaplin's everyman hero, the little tramp — a figure increasingly recognizable in Depression-era images of breadlines and vagrants. The scenes of Chaplin enmeshed in the cogs of an assembly line will forever remain a metaphor for our modern condition.
Friday, September 26, 8 p.m.
THE KILLING FLOOR
(William Duke, US 1984, 118 min.)
The film that inspired creation of the Rochester Labor Film Series, The Killing Floor recounts the true story of efforts to organize an interracial union of Chicago packing house workers during and after World War I. The film explores the tensions between southern black workers, lured by high war-time wages, and the ethnic European workers they replace, culminating in the 1919 Chicago race riots. The film won a Special Jury Prize at the 1985 Sundance Film Festival and was selected by the Zinn Education Project as a resource for teaching A People's History.
Friday, October 3, 8 p.m.
(Mario Monicelli, Italy 1964, 126 min. Italian with subtitles)
"Labor unions. Don't be afraid. This is a funny movie." Thus described in ?its original publicity, The Organizer (actually, Comrades) has been hailed as one of the great Italian films of the 1960s. It features Marcello Mastroianni as a socialist labor organizer in turn-of-the-century Turin who helps textile workers fight for better working conditions. Director Monicelli (Big Deal on Madonna Street) likened the character to the sheriff in a western — redressing wrongs but "filled with astonishment, doubts, weaknesses and somewhat ludicrous."
Sunday, October 5, 2 p.m.
SALT OF THE EARTH
(Herbert J. Biberman, US 1945, 94 min.)
Rightfully featured in the National Film Registry, Salt of the Earth has fulfilled the hope of its blacklisted creators that it be recognized as "the first feature film ever made in this country of labor, by labor, and for labor" — a film that celebrates the greatness of minorities and the worth and dignity of working-class women. The film recounts the saga of Mexican-American zinc miners striking for equal pay and shows the daring efforts of their wives in taking over the picket lines when a court injunction is served against the workers. Salt of the Earth is a testament to the art of the moving image as well as evidence of one of America’s darkest periods of political persecution.
Friday, October 10, 8 p.m.
MADE IN DAGENHAM
(Nigel Cole, UK 2010, 113 min.)
Reminiscent of Norma Rae, this film chronicles an historic 1968 strike at a British Ford factory. Led by spunky Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky), the women walk out when they learn that management has classified them as unskilled workers and capped their wages. Dealing with issues still very much with us — the pay gap, collusion between bosses and union reps, global corporate power and the surprising sexism of supposed liberal allies — Made in Dagenham is inspiring.
Friday, October 17, 8 p.m.
LIVE NUDE GIRLS UNITE!
(Vicki Funari and Julia Query, US 2000, 75 min.)
This challenging and funny film documents the efforts of a group of Bay Area strippers to ?form the first union of exotic dancers in the U.S. These sex workers confront the workplace problems faced by most workers without union contracts: long shifts, unsafe conditions, no job security and the fear of termination for taking sick days. Fed up with these conditions, Query picks up her camera, organizes her sisters, documents their ensuing strike and first contract negotiation, and records her sojourn across the country organizing nude dancers everywhere. Query’s relationship with her mother is an engrossing subplot. Filmed on and off-stage with candor and edited by Funari, this documentary is a poignant saga of worker empowerment that leaves you cheering.
Sunday, October 26, 2 p.m.
WAGES OF FEAR
(Henri Clouzot, US 1952, 148 min.)
A gritty and suspenseful epic set in Latin America, this film chronicles the personalities and relationships among four men hired to drive trucks filled with nitro-glycerine over treacherous roads. "They don't belong to a union, and they don't have any relatives, so if anything happens, no one will come around causing trouble." Yves Montand stars in his first dramatic role.
Saturday, November 1, 8 p.m.
(Andrew Garrison, US 2012, 65 min.)
Garrison’s camera follows Austin, TX choreographer Allison Orr as she observes and learns the work of trash collectors and then collaborates with them to turn the rhythms of their jobs into a dazzling dance routine. The culminating live performance of workers and their vehicles, presented on an airport runway before thousands of spectators, is not to be missed. While we have all seen trash collectors on our streets, this imaginative choreographer enables us to appreciate the skill and dignity of these workers.
Sunday, November 2, 2 p.m.
GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS
(James Foley, US 1992, 100 min.)
David Mamet’s scathing indictment of the world of real estate and '80s greed was brought to vivid life in this gripping film adaptation. Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris and Kevin Spacey all give blistering performances as cutthroat ?salesmen who pull out all the stops in order to win a company sales competition. First prize is a Cadillac. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired!