Screened at the first Festival in 1976, Barbara Kopple’s chronicle of a fierce standoff between striking workers and company thugs in Kentucky coal-mining country is a landmark of American documentary.
Harlan County, USA chronicles a fiercely contested labour battle in Kentucky during the early 1970s. The strike began when the miners working for the Eastover Mining Co. joined the UMW, and its corporate parent, Duke Power, refused to sign the standard union contract. By living with the 180-odd families involved in the strike, Kopple shows the backbreaking burdens of the miners’ life in the best of times and the looming fear of destitution in the worst. While the film is unabashedly partisan, it’s worth remembering that the company’s refusal to sign a contract was condemned by the National Labor Relations Board and that the corporation agreed to sign only under heavy pressure from federal mediators.
2015 Screening Schedule