The Killing Floor was intended as the pilot for a series of dramatic television films on American labor history — ” Made in U.S.A.” — to be produced by Elsa Rassbach for PBS. For several years in the 70s Rassbach worked at WGBH developing treatments and securing funding from National Endowment for the Humanities and other sources.
Author Archives: Jon Garlock
Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune
Phil Ochs loved movies. As a youth in Far Rockaway, he and his brother would see several films a week. Later, living in Los Angeles, he got a pass to the theater of the American Film Institute and spent much of the time he was not on tour watching movies. Still later, in New York City, he would go to movies with Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk to see films they knew so well they could recite the actors’ lines as they were spoken on screen. Continue reading
“Fellow Workers,” cried Bill Haywood as he opened the 1905 founding convention of the Industrial Workers of the World, “this is the Continental Congress of the working class. We are here to confederate the workers of this country into a working class movement that shall have for its purpose the emancipation of the working class…” Continue reading
Eight Men Out
Tonight’s film is an historically accurate dramatization of events surrounding the 1919 World Series, which the Chicago White Sox deliberately lost to the Cincinnati Reds. John Sayles (director of the labor film classic Matewan) adapted the screenplay from Eliot Asinof’s 1963 book, Eight Men Out, which he closely follows. While both the book and the film explore the motives and actions of the players, gamblers and others involved in the fix and its aftermath, they differ in assigning responsibility. Where Asimof has the players suggest the fix to the gamblers, Sayles shows the gamblers at the outset discussing which players might be approached to throw games. Sayles presents the players more sympathetically — their behavior looks more like a labor action than an expression of personal greed.
Prior to 2000 Robert Greenwald was a producer and director of commercial TV and feature films: that year’s stolen presidential election turned him into a documentary filmmaker concerned with such topics as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers, whistleblowers and drones, and Walmart’s assault on the global economy.
Cousin Jules is one of the best films you’ve never seen. Filmed over a five year period and exhibited to acclaim at festivals in 1972, Cousin Jules never found commercial distribution.
For one thing, the film’s format — cinemascope with stereophonic sound — required projection equipment not available in many movie houses, especially small art theaters to whose audience this film might appeal. Though aware of this problem, filmmaker Dominique Benicheti refused to release his work in another format, insisting that cinematographer Pierre-William Glenn’s images be seen as he intended. Continue reading
Box Car Bertha
In Sister of the Road, published in 1937, Box-Car Bertha Thompson recounted her life: early years in her mother’s South Dakota boarding house; childhood stays in anarchist communes near Little Rock and Tacoma; hoboing alone, with one of her sisters or one of her lovers; working for a Chicago abortionist; running with a gang of midwest shoplifters; bedding 1500 men — one of whom fathered her daughter — during a two month prostitution stint; hitchhiking around the country collecting data on transient women; working for a pathology clinic in Chicago, running a women’s service bureau in Alabama and becoming secretary of New York City’s Unemployed Women’s Education Association. Continue reading
Several months after Reds was released, American Film magazine usefully published the identities of 32 ‘witnesses’ to the events depicted, whose recollections supplement and are meant to authenticate the film’s narrative. (See below. Biographic links can be found at the Wikipedia entry for Reds) . Though listed in the film’s credits, the witnesses’ names do not accompany their onscreen testimony, as they would in a documentary, leaving the viewer confused. Still, these inconclusive reminiscences, only a fraction of the interviews conducted by Beatty with John Reed’s contemporaries, hint at the film’s rich and complex context while masking the omission of Reed’s life prior to meeting Louise Bryant. Continue reading
Time Out (L’Emploi Du Temps) is an important labor film because it is truly about work — about how work and the absence of work define people in the post-industrial world.
Unlike Human Resources, Laurent Cantet’s first feature film, which dealt with the conflicting values of a production worker and his manager son in a unionized manufacturing plant, Time Out looks at intergenerational values within the bourgeoisie — a world, Cantet notes, of bureaucrats and administrators: “Vincent,” the protagonist, “didn’t struggle for his place in society. It was given to him because of his milieu. And so he had the continual feeling of being a usurper.” Continue reading
The Navigators is the sixth film by Ken Loach to be included in these Labor Film Series. There’s a good reason why we’ve shown so many of his films: of contemporary filmmakers Ken Loach has dealt most consistently and critically with the experience of the working class. Continue reading