Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Harlan County USA Download

There is little wonder Barbara Kopple’s film, Harlan County USA, won the Oscar for best documentary in 1977. But to watch the thing today you almost feel it's worthy of another one. The difference then, it was a contemporary film, today, it is a brilliant piece of social history.

Historically speaking though, quite young, 1968, a year that saw me with my first new car, the now as then, classic 68 Plymouth Road Runner. And for me it is the fact that this whole different world existed contemporaneously and just down the road so to speak, that makes it all the more fascinating.

There are lots of things about this documentary that are worthy of comment, the choice of music undoubtedly, a spokesman for the mine owners, flatly denying any proven link between coal dust and Black Lung to name but another, and the union boss, John L Lewis, whose sheer presence, is today, something so rarely found in any man.

I couldn't recommend this classic piece of film more highly. These are my ups, so they are quite safe.

68 Road Runner

Harlan County U.S.A. - a Documentary Review
Director Barbara Kopple Records the Epic Struggle of Coal Miners

Between the 1968 mine explosion to the murder of the union's Yablonski and his family, Harlan County fights long and hard to overcome their own domination by mine owners.

Director Barbara Kopple lived with the coal miners in the Harlan County black hills for over two years in order to document their history. While the film began as a record of the search for power between UMW presidents, it changed into a film about the coal miners when a strike began creating drama right before the camera lens.

Harlan County U.S.A. is An American Saga of Rich vs. Poor

The interests of corporations dominating the interests of human beings to live and survive join forces in this cinema verite treatment of the topic. Kopple did not use narration, but allowed the people involved in the real life struggle for rights to speak for themselves. This gives the film a participant's eye on events rather than that of a dispassionate viewer. She has captured the lifestyle of a humble but proud people who have been pushed to the edges, marginalized and dominated by a single-industry economic base which leaves everyone vulnerable. After a mine explosion in 1968 left 78 men dead, the surviving families began to grow in their anger towards the mining company.

Notable in the film is the use of protest music, including songs by Hazel Dickens and Florence Reese. "Which Side Are You On?" reverbates throughout the town as the miners prepare to strike. Local mountain music and musicians are also integrated into the film, with strikers singing "We Shall Not Be Moved," or "Let It Shine." The music, like the rest of the movie, resonates with authenticity. While Kopple has been criticized for taking a side herself in the film, there are clips showing the speeches of those in power and their behavior during strikes. One particular clip is of the sheriff, caught in the middle, but siding himself with the power brokers.

- - -

Harlan County, USA
The miners’ struggle

HARLAN COUNTY, USA, Barbara Kopple’s feature length film about a coal miners’ strike in Kentucky, is the best U.S. documentary in a long time. The film has its faults. Its editing is ragged; its narrative structure is confusing and begins to unravel towards the end. But its faults are the consequence of its virtues: an energy, immediacy, and passion rarely seen in a U.S. documentary. The film’s power comes from Kopple’s intimate involvement with the people she filmed, the risks she took, the places—jails, courtrooms, stockholder’s meetings—into which she forced her camera. Its strength lies not in its beauty, nor even in its politics, but in the moral authority that is inscribed in every frame.

There is no bloodier chapter in the history of U.S. labor than the struggle of coal miners, and some of the most violent episodes within this chapter occurred in Harlan County, Kentucky. The people who live there remember it as “bloody Harlan,” the site of fierce battles between miners and coal companies that culminated on May 4, 1931, in a shootout that left a large number of dead and wounded. The song that fixed this struggle forever in the folklore of U.S. labor—“Which Side are You On?”—plays an important role in the film, both as a constant reminder of the historical continuity of the miners’ fight, and as a commentary, of sorts, on the kind of partisan filmmaking practiced by Kopple and her crew.

Things haven't improved much in Harlan County since the thirties. The statistics tell a grim story. Its population, now 40,000, has declined by 36 percent since 1960. More than 24 babies out of every thousand die before reaching the age of one. If they do live long enough to enter school, they will be poorly educated. The expenditure per child on public school is one half the national average. Only 23 percent of those over the age of 25 have finished high school. Whether they have or not, they are likely to live their lives in poverty. The median family income in Harlan County is $4,600. People have only a 50-50 chance of living in a home with plumbing. Many will not find work. If they do, it will probably be in the mines, where they will die young—most likely of black lung disease.

- - -

Barbara Kopple's Film is a Classic Historical Epic of Struggle for Justice

This is a significant film that represents part of American history and a particularly American experience. The film clips of men suffering with black lung, of grieving mothers and wives, of the poverty in the area, the ugly barren hills that the mine created in its wake, and most importantly, the faces of the people who fight so valiantly for a decent life for their families are all witnessed. The violence of political and financial domination are captured, too, as the United Mine Workers fight for a new and independent president. The raw truth of the true cost of coal is seen in Kopple's film. It is a classic and is as significant today as it was in 1976.

* 1977
* 103 minutes
* Best Documentary, Oscar, 1977
* Special Award, L.A. Film Critics Association, 1977
* National Film Registry, NFPB, 1990

Update: Files timed out.


699MB total 1hr 45m join with hjsplit English subs if required, no pass.


Cletis L. Stump said...

My brother, did you know Harlan County is my home? When Barbara was at the University of Kentucky, she put together the yearbook and devoted 90% of it to photos of civil disobedience on the campus that year. I still have mine, somewhere, and they are highly prized in that most people didn't want them then. This post, especially, the miner walking along the ridge got to me. That was the world of my childhood and I would give all I have for one more hour with my mom and dad. Can't see to type anymore right now.

Cletis L. Stump said...

Got that wrong. It wasn't Barbara at UK. It was a friend of hers I knew. Told you this post got to me.

Cletis L. Stump said...

I'm back again. Carl Shoupe is a lifelong friend. I grew up in Lynch at the foot of Black Mountain as did Carl. I'll probably be back to this a few more times. I can only take it in small doses. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I'll bring you a link to a couple of short stories I wrote that I put up when I first put up thebookofcletis. You'll smile a bit. Humor has sustained our people like it has many others. If you ever start thinking your blog isn't worth it, just remember what a gift you have given me this evening. Cletis

Himself said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cletis L. Stump said...

Himself, here are the links I promised.

Here you go. Enjoy. I wtote these years ago now. http://thebookofcletis.blogspot.com/2010/12/creative-sunday-1-continued.html


Here's my e-mail jerrichards%@aol.com

Himself said...

Hello Cletis, it's the middle of the night here, I'm just up for a cuppa. (tea)

I had no idea at all that this was your home ground. I'm glad you left the last comment, because quite frankly I thought I'd brought you a heap o' pain.

I have to admit there are lots of places I don't want to go back to, invariably there's a woman there.

Still, I'm glad the post was a plus for you, and no matter what, the film is still the best striving for right documentary I have ever seen.

Here is a link to a treasure trove, the place where I obtained the download links for Harlan County and a whole lot more. There is quite a bit more on a similar vein as well as lots of stuff on global issues.

If you ain't used to downloading more than the odd clip, I can give you some good pointers, but we can do that by email if required.



Himself said...

Magic stuff Cletis. I'd like to make a post out of the serpents story if I may. Assuming of course I can find the piece of video I have in mind for the thing.

I went a searchin' this morning for it, I didn't find it, but I found a little treasure instead. Here's a taster, it won't embed.


You can watch the full 60 minutes at the link below, or you can wait till I upload the ripped file and then save it to your hard drive.


Cletis L. Stump said...

Sir, I am honored that you wish to post my story. Post away. I still get chills remembering that night. My uncle I mentioned in the story knew those old boys and laughed about it until he transitioned.