Nine Star Hotel

film stillNine  Star Hotel (Malon 9 Kochavim) isn’t a fancy hotel that you would like to stay at for your vacation. Its name comes from a sarcastic remark made by one of a group of undocumented Palestinian construction workers, referring to their makeshift shanties in the hills above the Israeli city of Modi’in. Continue reading

They Don’t Wear Black Tie

Film StillMark Twain once remarked that he was assured by a music critic friend that Wagner’s music is better than it sounds. In setting a context for this screening I’d like to suggest that Leon Hirszman and Gianfrancesco Guarini’s 1981 Brazilian film, They Don’t Wear Black Tie (Eles Não Usam Black-Tie), is even much better than it looks and, at least to my eyes, it looks very good indeed. Continue reading

H-2 Worker

film stillWhen Jon asked me to introduce the film I said I was more than glad to do it and I was glad to see that the labor community was showing this film. Having been involved with migrant farm workers for the past twenty some years, I think this film will offend your sense of decency and your sense of honesty and your sense and belief in justice and democracy and freedom, and I’ve got a whole lot of words I can use to talk about what we believe in and what we feel exists in our country. As you watch the film I think you’re going to be offended by its examples of racism in our society. It’s really evident when you look at the H-2A workers and they’re all black, and you look at the members of the Department of Labor and you look at the growers and you look at the festival in celebration of a great harvest that’s attended by all white people as the black Jamaican workers get on a plane furnished by the company and go back to Jamaica. Continue reading

The Roof

film stillIl Tetto, or The Roof, was directed and produced by Vittorio DeSica in 1956 and first shown in the U.S. in 1959.  A New York Times reviewer claimed the belated U.S. screening was due to what he called the film’s “somewhat cheerless theme.”  Indeed, the viewer reads in the film’s prologue that “the story you are about to see…is the heroic struggle of a young couple to build a tiny home on [Rome’s] outskirts and was actually filmed at a typical squatters’ colony where many Romans shared the same real-life predicament.” Continue reading

The Navigators

film stillThe 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

The Organizer

film stillThe Organizer was originally released in Italy in 1963 under the title I Compagni. It was made and shown to general audiences under interesting, and to some extent, peculiar circumstances. To begin with, it was a film about social conflict, directed by a man considered a master of light comedies. His name was Mario Monicelli and he was already well known for his previous film work.  One such film is I Soliti Ignoti (1958, known in the U.S. as Big Deal on Madonna Street), one of the biggest box office successes in post-war Europe. Another of his films, La Grande Guerra (The Great War, 1959), had won honors at the Venice Film Festival, sharing the Golden Lion Prize with Il Generale della Rovere by Roberto Rossellini. Continue reading

Modern Times

film stillCommenting on the appearance in 1936 of what was essentially a silent picture, film critic Otis Ferguson snipped, “Modern Times is about the last thing United Artists should have called this film.”

Chaplin was the only figure in Hollywood who could have successfully made a silent film almost eight years after the U.S. film industry converted to synchronized sound film making. While the talkies had become the standard of the day, Chaplin’s popular screen identity — the little tramp figure that we all know and that was known and beloved around the world — had been fully formed in the silent cinema of the teens and early twenties. The silence of the tramp was an issue that Chaplin had fretted over when producing his previous film, City Lights, in 1931. And while that film was a huge success four more years had gone by and the silent era was already being represented as ancient history. Continue reading

La Commune (1871)

film stillThis is a long film and I don’t want to make it longer with an introduction. There are a few very quick points that may provide useful context.

First, about Peter Watkins:  Watkins career has been shaped not only by a commitment to make films that matter but by the reaction to his work from sponsors and the film and media establishment. His negotiations with the BBC over The War Game, a 1966 film which the network commissioned but refused to air because it graphically showed the outcome of a nuclear attack on Britain, made Watkins an exile and turned him into a provocative critic of MAVM (mass audio-visual media). His work includes films on Edvard Munch and August Strindberg;  a fantasy (Punishment Park) about Nixon-era repression of dissent in the U.S.; The Journey, a 14 1/2 hour internationally funded and made film on issues of peace; and in 2000,  La Commune. Continue reading


In 1958 film critics and historians held a referendum in Brussels on the thirty greatest films ever made. Kameradschaft ended up as film number twenty-six on the list, ranked with films such as The Rules of the Game and Citizen Kane. I don’t know if this film would make a similar list today, but I have to say that half a century after that poll, Kameradschaft still stands out as one of the most remarkable films ever made. Continue reading

How Green Was My Valley

film stillIn 1939 when How Green Was My Valley was published in England, it sold fifty thousand copies within four months. When this novel by an unknown Richard LLewellyn appeared in the US, it went through fifteen printings and sold nearly 200,000 copies in 1940. It has remained in print ever since.The book is a sprawling tale of three generations of a Welsh colliery family, at once a sentimental novel about the lives of the Morgans and also the story of coal mining in the Rhondda Valley. On the surface a domestic chronicle of the family’s courting and cooking, their singing and schooling, the novel critically examines the transformation of the colliery in which the Morgan men work and depicts their response to these changes. Continue reading