Storyline (from IMDB)

This film documents the coal miners’ strike against the Brookside Mine of the Eastover Mining Company in Harlan County, Kentucky in June, 1973. Eastovers refusal to sign a contract (when the miners joined with the United Mine Workers of America) led to the strike, which lasted more than a year and included violent battles between gun-toting company thugs/scabs and the picketing miners and their supportive women-folk. Director Barbara Kopple puts the strike into perspective by giving us some background on the historical plight of the miners and some history of the UMWA.

I’m not a big documentary watcher, but I did plan to watch these Criterion Collection movies, and this one was the top of someone’s list so I checked my Netflix instant screen and it was there.

I don’t know if this is the place to talk about how I feel about unions today, but it’s clear from this movie that these miners needed some kind of union because the mine owners did treat these people like animals. Their homes didn’t even have bathtubs or even running water. How can people live like this, and this was in 70s (they spoke about impeaching Nixon, so even before looking up the movie, I knew that). So, in the 70s, people in Kentucky didn’t have running water? That’s disgraceful.

As someone who grew up watching movies and TV, it’s hard to realize these are “real” people, not characters, so when the mine explodes and people are mourning the death of their fathers and husbands, it’s upsetting to know that we’re watching real emotions.

This is a hard film to watch, but maybe that makes it one that should be watched.