The Killing Floor

Film still from the Killing Floor

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.

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Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune

Phil-OchsPhil 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



Welcome to tonight’s showing of the 2014 British film Pride, an award-winning biographical comedy-drama which was inspired by an extraordinary true story.  The screenplay was written by Stephen Beresford and directed by Matthew Warchus.

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The Hand That Feeds

The-Hand-That-FeedsI would like to set the stage for this evening’s film by drawing some connections to Rochester.

The film we are about to view depicts the struggle of a group of low wage workers, mostly immigrants, many of them undocumented, working on the east side of Manhattan. They’ve been ripped off in their pay, not paid even the minimum wage, and they’ve received no overtime compensation. Their working conditions are all too typical of employment in 2015. Continue reading

The Wobblies


“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

Eight Men Out Photo
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.

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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.

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Nine to Five

Nine to FiveTwo years before Nine to Five opened, I was a medical insurance claims approver for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. About 370 of the roughly 400 office workers were women; of the 30 men, half were in management or decision-making positions. During my fourth week on the job, a co-worker looked furtively over her shoulder and whispered, “Vince! Sign this!” while tossing me a union authorization card. Continue reading

Cousin Jules

Cousin JulesCousin 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