2000 Labor Film Series
All films shown at the Eastman House Dryden Theater, 900 East Avenue
To celebrate a decade of collaboration during which the Rochester Labor Council and the George Eastman House showed nearly one hundred labor-related movies, the 2000 Labor Film Series brings back ten of the best and most popular of these films.
Friday. October 6
SILKWOOD (Mike Nichols, US, 1983, 131 min.) Karen Silkwood, a worker at the Kerr-McGee nuclear power plant, is heavily contaminated by radiation, due to unsafe conditions at the plant. When she decides to blow the whistle on the factory owners, she dies mysteriously in a car accident. Nominated for several Academy Awards, this film features great performances by Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell and Cher.
Friday, October 13
THE GRAPES OF WRATH (John Ford, US, 1940, 129 min) This John Ford classic stars Henry Fonda playing the role of his life in the film version of the Steinbeck novel about working people forced to migrate from the 1930s Oklahoma dustbowl to California. This movie is as relevant today as it was just after the Great Depression.
Friday, October 20
THE BICYCLE THIEF (Vittorio Dc Sica, Italy, 1948, 90 min. Italian with subtitles.) In this De Sica classic, a worker gets a job as a bill-poster on the condition that he own a bicycle. When the bicycle is stolen, the man and his son embark on an odyssey of despair. Not an exploration of political or collective struggle but of personal hardship, The Bicycle
Thief nonetheless suggests a universe inextricably bound by perverse economic ties. Lead actor Lamberto Maggiorani, a steel-worker, found himself unemployed soon after the film was completed.
Friday, October 27
I AM CUBA (Mikhail Kalatozov, Cuba/Soviet Union, 1964, 135 min. Spanish and Russian with subtitles.) The first film ever jointly presented by master directors Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorcese, this film by the great Soviet director is a whirling, feverish dance through the sensuous decadence of Batista’s Havana and the grinding poverty and oppression of the Cuban people. Kalatozov’s astonishingly acrobatic camera glides effortlessly through scenes of bathing beauties, landless peasants and student revolutionaries.
Wednesday, November 1
SALT OF THE EARTH (Herbert J. Biberman, US 1945, 94 min.) Rightfully featured in the National Film Registry, Salt of the Earth is a testament to the art of the moving image as well as invaluable evidence of one of America’s darkest periods of political persecution. Blacklisted director Biberman, producer Paul Jarrico, screenwriter Michael Wilson, and actor Will Gcer together tell the saga of striking Mexican-American zinc miners, whose wives boldly take to the picket lines when a court injunction is served against the workers.
Friday. November 3
MODERN TIMES (Charles Chaplin, 1936, 85 min.) With Chaplin and Paulette Goddard. Print from GEH Archives. Chaplin's nearly silent classic — with a score by Chaplin himself — is the director’s look at industrialization and modernization from the point of view of his everyman hero, the little tramp. The scenes of Chaplin caught in the cogs of an assembly line will forever remain a metaphor for our modern condition.
Wednesday, November 8
JOE HILL (Bo Widerberg, Sweden/US 1971, 114 min., Swedish with subtitles)
This film marked the American arrival of Swedish master Bo Widerberg and defines his balance of technical exactness with a taste for on-camera improvisation. Joe Hill is the fictionalized story of the legendary songwriter-organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies) — his journey from Sweden to the US and his unrelenting fight for his cause. A nearly lost gem, the Swedish Film Institute in Stockholm has generously provided a 35mm print for this special screening.
NORMA RAE (Martin Ritt, US 1979, 110 min.) Deservedly taking home the Best Actress Oscar for her brilliant turn as a complex young woman worker in a southern textile plant, Sally Fields shines. As conditions in the plant force workers to consider unionizing, a Jewish labor organizer from NewYork City arrives, cultures clash, and tempers rise. From start to finish, Fields 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, November 17
HARLAN COUNTY, U.S.A. (Barbara Kopple, US 1977, 103 min.) Gripping, human documentary whose Academy Award winning achievement is so pure, its effect so galvanizing that it mesmerized the 1976 New York Film Festival. Tells the story of the strike of UMWA miners in Kentucky against the Eastover Mining Company, owned by Duke Power. Like Salt of the Earth, this film focuses on the role played by miners’ wives in sustaining a labor struggle.
Friday, November 24
ROGER AND ME (Michael Moore, US, 1989, 87 min.) The ostensible goal of this hilarious film seems modest enough: trapping General Motors Chairman Roger Smith into a spontaneous reckoning of the disastrous human effects of his managerial malfeasance. Moore weaves a savage chronicle of how the unimpeded pursuit of profits by corporate America has undercut working people not only in his home town of Flint, Michigan but across the country.