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Film still The Navigators movie

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machinist at work

1998 Labor Film Series

All films shown at the Eastman House Dryden Theater, 900 East Avenue

Friday, October 2  Rochester Premiere
(US, 1926, 56 min., silent) Moving from fictional studio-shot scenes to documentary footage, the film chronicles the struggles of 16,000 New Jersey textile mill workers for unionization and a decent standard of living. The Passaic Textile Strike is an important cinematic bridge between the melodramas of early worker-made films and the social realism that was to dominate radical films of the 1930s. Also on the program: LABOR’S REWARD (US, 1925, 16 min., silent) Produced by the American Federation of Labor, the film publicizes the benefits of unionization and organized consumption within the context of a love story between Tom, who works in a union shop, and Mary, who slaves away in a non-union bookbindery.

Saturday, October 3  Special Film Series Event
(2 - 4 P.M. Curtis Theatre, George Eastman House) “Representing the Working Class” Visiting labor film scholar Steven J. Ross will join other film and labor historians in a round table discussion on the themes of class, work, and unionization in early and silent American cinema. As part of this event, Ross will present brief clips from films that deal with liberal and conservative depictions of strikes and radicalism, including A Poor Relation (US, 1914), Intolerance (D. W.Griffith, US, 1916), and Dangerous Hours (US, 1920). Free Admission.

Friday, October 9
(John Cassavetes, US, 1974, 155 min.) Nick Longhetti is a construction foreman who works overtime to support his wife, Mabel, and their three children. They live in a house with so little privacy that the couple must sleep on a sofa bed in the dining room. These are the conditions for Mabel’s mental and emotional deterioration, which the film details in a fascinating, mesmerizing, horrifying fashion. Starring Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk in roles suggested by Cassavetes’ own marriage, A Woman Under the Influence gives a sympathetic and empathetic portrayal of a traditional working class woman struggling under the influence of the expectations patriarchy has for her.

Friday October 16
(Pen Tennyson, UK, 1940, 76 min.) Frustrated by the limited and humiliating roles available to black actors in the United States, Paul Robeson accepted an offer by Britain’s Ealing Studios to play the unlikely part of an American stoker seeking employment in a Welsh mining town near Cardiff. Upon hearing Robeson’s powerful baritone, the miners immediately find him work in the mines and, of course, make him the centerpiece of their chorus. Besides showcasing Robeson’s singing ability, Proud Valley details the working conditions faced by Welsh workers and the indifference of the owners to the hardships endured by the miners’ families. This screening honors the birth, 100 years ago, of Paul Robeson, and his contribution to film, music and theatre.

Friday October 23
(Sergei Eisenstein, USSR, 1928, 103 min., silent with live accompaniment by Philip C. Carli). One of the most important and revolutionary filmmakers of the 20th century, Eisenstein was also a brilliant theorist whose impact on global film culture continues unabated to this very day. We celebrate the centenary of the great Soviet director’s birth with a special screening of his 1928 masterpiece October. Made to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik victory, October represents the culmination of Eisenstein&rss experiments with intellectual montage, the visual equivalent of dialectical-materialist thought.

Friday October 30
(Giuseppe DeSantis, Italy, 1948, 107min. Dubbed in English) The principal purpose of this film, shot on location in the Po River Valley, was to expose the hopeless situation of women migrant workers who worked the rice fields in virtual forced labor camps. An essential work of neorealism, Bitter Rice examines the wretched conditions of these agricultural workers through a combination of realism, melodrama, and eroticism (the last, the lingering trace of American capital investment in the Italian film industry). Silvana Mangano fairly smokes the screen with a performance that reveals as much of her body as censors of the time would permit, as well as an unexpected amount of acting talent.

Friday, November 6
(Charles Burnett, US, 1990, 102 min.) Blending African, African American, and Native American myths, this amusingly macabre film looks at what happenswhen the devil comes disguised as a long-term house guest. Danny Glover is Harry Mention, an outsider and Trickster, who appears at the door of a black Los Angeles family and proceeds to disrupt the relationships among the three generations who live in the tension-filled household. Raising questions about the politics of nostalgia and about the dangers as well as the pleasures of a not-so-distant past when blacks were supposed to “know their place,” To Sleep With Anger shows a range of working traditions and histories present in the modern black middle-class.

Friday, November 13  Rochester Premiere
(Barbara Kopple and William Davis, US, 1990, 100 min.) Two-time Oscar winner Barbara Kopple and award-winning video director and editor Bill Davis collaborated on this exciting feature-length video that intertwines extensive historical film footage and photographs, an original soundtrack by Tom Juravich, first-hand accounts of events in mine worker history from those who lived them, and dramatic sequences of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) unprecedented fight at Pittston. This struggle, the solidarity it generated throughout organized labor, and its outcome marked a turning point for American workers and their unions.

Friday November 20
“There is a road to freedom for all people, and the documentary film should record and assist this progress.” A life-long practitioner and proponent of politically engaged filmmaking, Joris Ivens emerged to prominence in the early1930s as a leader of the international documentary movement committed to populist causes and the unified resistance to fascism. For more than 60 years Ivens made films about the resistance of the world’s people to economic imperialism and political oppression. One of his most important legacies is his investigation of the ties between local labor struggles and the global politics of liberation. We celebrate the centenary of Ivens’ birth with three documentaries from his first decade of filmmaking: PHILIPS-RADIO (Industrial Symphony, Netherlands, 1931, 36 min., English intertitles), a cinematic exploration of work and workers at a Dutch radio factory; MISERE AU BORINAGE (co-director Henri Storck, Netherlands/Belgium, 1933, 28 mm., narrated in English), a clandestinely made documentary on the inhuman treatment of Belgian miners and their violent clashes with police; and POWER AND THE LAND (US, 1940, 36 min.), a film document on American farm labor and the work of the Rural Electrification Administration to bring power to the people.


2023 Labor Films

Past Film Series Schedules

2022 Labor Film Series
2021 Labor Film Series
2020 Labor Film Series
2019 Labor Film Series
2018 Labor Film Series
2017 Labor Film Series
2016 Labor Film Series
2015 Labor Film Series
2014 Labor Film Series
2013 Labor Film Series
2012 Labor Film Series
2011 Labor Film Series
2010 Labor Film Series
2009 Labor Film Series
2008 Labor Film Series
2007 Labor Film Series
2006 Labor Film Series
2005 Labor Film Series
2004 Labor Film Series
2003 Labor Film Series
2002 Labor Film Series
2001 Labor Film Series
2000 Labor Film Series
1999 Labor Film Series
1998 Labor Film Series
1997 Labor Film Series
1996 Labor Film Series
1995 Labor Film Series
1994 Labor Film Series
1993 Labor Film Series
1992 Labor Film Series
1990-91 Labor Film Series
1989 Labor Film Series