True Films

Harlan County, USA


Filmed in 1975, this award-winning documentary still has bite. It’s won much applause for its support of poor hard-scrabble miners in a Kentucky coal community, and their struggles to unionize a job that no human should do. The start of the film gives you an idea of the dirty hell fired up by this kind of low-tech coal mining. But equally important, this film is a deep immersion into the tangled small town Appalachian life of 1975 — a community and lifestyle that no longer exists. It captures the bloody drama of the strike including the climatic standoff with “scabs” shooting machine guns. Sadly the local villains play out the stereotype of corrupt southern white racist bullies. You could not cast their roles more perfectly. Watching this documentary feels like you spent 2 years sitting on the front porch with these characters, which is what the filmmaker did.

— KK


Harlan County, USA
Barbara Kopple
1976, 103 min.
DVD, $24

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Posted February 13, 2009 at 5:00 am | comments


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