2016 Rochester Labor Film Series
September 2 - November 18
All films shown at the Eastman House Dryden Theater, 900 East Avenue.
Friday, September 2, 8 p.m.
Master of the Universe
(Der Banker, Marc Bauder, Austria/Germany 2013, 88 min., DCP, German w/subtitles)
Maybe the real masters of the universe are not politicians, armies or even nations: they are probably investment bankers like Deutsche Bank’s Rainer Voss. From a gleaming steel and glass structure in Frankfurt’s financial district, Voss offers a distinctive perspective on the out-of-control mechanics of modern global finance. He describes a parallel universe of extreme wealth and merciless pressure for profit, an opaque system that disconnects bankers from the outside world.
Friday, September 9, 8 p.m.
America Is Hard to See
(Emile de Antonio, US 1970, 90 min., 16mm, b/w)
1968 — a critical year in world and US history. The Viet Cong launch the Tet offensive, 10 million French workers join a general strike, the Soviet Union invades Czechoslovakia, hundreds of students are gunned down in Mexico City. After Eugene McCarthy almost wins the New Hampshire primary, Robert Kennedy enters the race and LBJ declines to run. Martin Luther King’s murder is followed by riots in many US cities. Kennedy’s murder leads to the nomination of Hubert Humphrey amid a Chicago police riot. Richard Nixon becomes president. Radical filmmaker Emile de Antonio’s chronicle of the 1968 Democratic primaries and convention is a timely film in this year’s contentious election and usefully complements Medium Cool (October 7).
Friday, September 16, 8 p.m.
At Any Price
(Ramin Bahrani, US 2012, 105 min., 35mm)
In this parable Willie Loman meets Monsanto. Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid) is a flawed Iowa corn farmer and a sales rep for a GMO seed company, under pressure both to expand his territory and to increase his harvest — “go big or die.” Bahrani (Man Push Cart, 2005) addresses timeless themes: fathers and sons, ambition and rebellion, solidarity and self-interest, morality and survival and, ultimately, the death of dreams. The film is an unsettling and introspective take on the influence of economic and social forces on an American everyman.
Friday, September 23, 8 p.m.
ReMine, the Latest Working Class Movement
(ReMine, El Último Movimiento Obrero, Marcos Martinez, DCP, Spain 2014,
102 min., Spanish w/subtitles)
In 2012, as global financial institutions harassed debt-ridden Spain, the government introduced crushing austerity measures, including a 63% reduction in subsidies to the coal industry. In northern Spain, a stronghold of militant trade unions, Asturian miners declared an unlimited strike, occupied mines, blockaded highways, fought police, and organized a mass protest march to Madrid, nearly 300 miles away. Across Spain and internationally, the miners’ traditional methods of struggle and organization won wide sympathy and admiration, culminating in a joyous demonstration of solidarity. Yet the future of Spanish coal mining remains in doubt.
Friday, September 30, 8 p.m.
The Measure of a Man
(La Loi du marché, Stéphane Brizé, France 2015, 93 min., DCP, French w/subtitles)
Vincent Lindon gives a fine performance as unemployed everyman Thierry, who submits to a series of quietly humiliating ordeals in his search for work: futile retraining courses that lead to dead ends, job interviews via Skype, a critique of his self-presentation by fellow jobseekers. These experiences almost strip Thierry, a good father and husband, of his dignity and self-respect. When he lands a job in retail, surveilling both customers and fellow employees on video monitors, he faces one too many moral dilemmas. A powerful and deeply troubling vision of the realities of the new economic order — the law of the market.
Friday, October 7, 8 p.m
(Haskell Wexler, US 1969, 111 min., 16mm)
In contrast to de Antonio’s coverage of the 1968 Democratic primaries (September 9), Medium Cool is a 60s answer to Italian neo-Realism, blending documentary footage of actual protests at that year’s Democratic convention with the fictional story of a TV cameraman struggling with his conscience over his role in capturing (or perpetuating?) the social ills of the day. Rochester actor Robert Forster gives a riveting performance in this unique and disturbing portrait of the decade’s political turmoil and unrest. Special screening in memory of Haskell Wexler (1922-2015).
Friday, October 14, 8 p.m.
(Courtney Hunt, US 2008, 97 min., 35mm)
In this unusual take on human trafficking, two working class single mothers — one Mohawk, the other white — smuggle Asian workers across the frozen St. Lawrence River near Massena. The desperation of the immigrants mirrors the circumstances of the two women, who must overcome their distrust of one another. Awarded a Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, this novice effort earned two Academy Award nominations — Courtney Hunt for Best Original Screenplay and Melissa Leo for Best Actress. And Native American Misty Upham won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Friday, October 21, 8 p.m.
(Jennifer Baichwal, US 2006, 90 min. 35mm, English and Mandarin w/subtitles)
Documenting the work of Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, this film dramatically enhances the power of his still images to convey the scale and impact of human labor on our planet. Burtynsky’s photo of the factory where workers produce twenty million steam irons a year does not compare with the opening eight minute tracking shot of endless rows of these workers assembling parts. Likewise the images of coal mining, ship breaking, dam building, electronics recycling and other work sites that reveal “the landscape that we change, that we disrupt, in the pursuit of progress.” Al Gore calls this “An extraordinarily haunting, beautiful, insightful, touching and thought-provoking movie.”
Friday, October 28, 8 p.m.
(John Sayles, US 1987, 135 min., 35mm)
With Chris Cooper, James Earl Jones. Based on the 1920 showdown between coal miners determined to form a union and coal company agents hired to prevent them, this is one of the classic films about American labor. Trying to unite the miners, organizer Joe Kenehan explains, “They got you fightin’ white against colored, native against foreign, hollow against hollow, when you know there ain’t but two sides in this world — them that work and them that don’t. You work, they don’t. That’s all you got to know about the enemy.” Seeing an original 35mm print of Haskell Wexler’s cinematography on the big screen is an experience not to be missed.
Friday, November 18, 8 p.m.
(Fritz Lang, Germany 1927, 148 min., DCP)
Director Fritz Lang’s prescient vision of an urban world in disarray has been digitally restored to its original premiere length. With this science fiction epic, Lang brought to the screen one of the most ambitious and iconic movies ever made. The story takes place in a city of the future, in which slaves toil underground for a ruling class that lives above in an urban utopia. Amidst this setting, two young idealists hope to unite the workers and bring the two worlds together. Live accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra will create an unforgettable cinematic experience. The group is renowned for scoring and performing music for a wide and eclectic range of silent films including Picture, a 2015 film by the Dryden Theatre’s own Paolo Cherchi Usai.