Harlan County USA

Director: Barbara Kopple

Shot between 1973 and 1976, Barbara Kopple’s film documents the struggle of Kentucky coal miners who decided to join the United Mine Workers of America and subsequently went on strike to win a contract from the Eastover Mining Company. Although the film provides background information to the events and outlines the tensions within the union itself, the focus is on the strike action. Using folk songs that recall the strikes of ‘bloody Harlan’ in the 1930s, the filmmaker dramatises the present struggle and links it to the past. One of the most effective documentaries of the 1970s, the film won an Academy Award for ‘best feature-length documentary’ and highlighted the debate over the use of cinema verite techniques as a political tool.
U.S.A., 1976. Colour. 103 mins.

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