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Harlan County, USA Academy Award Winner! 

By Jerry Renshaw

A man crouches and pokes at what first appears to be a wad of chewed-up pink bubble gum on the ground. "That's what a scab will do to ya, by God," he says, his voice quavering with emotion. The pink wad is brain tissue from a striker shot in the head by a strikebreaker. That's one of the harsh realities of Harlan County USA. Barbara Kopple's documentary camera looks at this forgotten corner of 1970s America, the site of some of the bitterest labor violence in American history. It's hard to believe that some 40 years after the Depression, there were parts of Appalachia that were hardly better off than they were in the 1930s. The care-worn faces of the miners and their families speak volumes. They're the tough, proud faces of people struggling to make a living the way that their parents and grandparents did in generations past. Kopple skillfully weaves archival footage and traditional labor songs through the film to give a historical perspective to the strike against Eastover Mining Company. Above and beyond the labor issues, the film takes a hard look at the living conditions, health issues, and poverty faced by Harlan's residents, the human toll that goes along with the mining industry. The tense confrontations between Eastover's slimy security goons and the unionizers are particularly gripping, with the threat of violence hanging thick in the air. Sometimes ugly, always absorbing, this is an important, enlightening social record, one that serves the highest calling of the documentary filmmaker's art.

Academy Awards

Harlan County, USA received an Academy Award for Documentary (Features; Barbara Kopple - Producer).

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Your Memories Shared!

"This is a brilliant account of how workers change themselves in the process of fighting for a change in their working conditions. I saw the film nearly twenty years ago and it is not possible to get hold of in the UK either on DVD or video - come on let's get it released!"


"It showed the true meaning of a coal miner life. Some people think that coal mining is easy but we put our life on the line daily and get treated like crap from some people. Its our life all we know like the mining the explosion on Cumberland River that took 36 lifes. They been forgotton by people. I like to see a movie or book come to life for them falling coal miner."

--Coal miner's daughter



Buy this VHS movie from! (Click here!)DVD unavailableSoundtrack unavailable at - try eBay (see links below)Rated PGNot on an American Film Institute 100 list

Director: Barbara Kopple


Released: July 31, 1976

Availability: VHS

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