Barbara Kopple’s Academy Award–winning Harlan County USA unflinchingly documents a grueling coal miners’ strike in a small Kentucky town. With unprecedented access, Kopple and her crew captured the miners’ sometimes violent struggles with strikebreakers, local police, and company thugs. Featuring a haunting soundtrack—with legendary country and bluegrass artists Hazel Dickens, Merle Travis, Sarah Gunning, and Florence Reece—the film is a heartbreaking record of the thirteen-month struggle between a community fighting to survive and a corporation dedicated to the bottom line. —The Criterion Collection
Barbara Kopple (born July 30, 1946) is an American film director, primarily known for her work in documentary film.
She grew up in Scarsdale, New York, the daughter of a textile executive and studied psychology at Northeastern University, after which she worked with the Maysles Brothers.
Kopple has won two Academy Awards, the first in 1976 for Harlan County, USA, about a Kentucky miners’ strike, and the second in 1991 for American Dream, the story of the Hormel Foods strike in Austin, Minnesota in 1985-86. She has directed episodes of the television drama series Homicide: Life on the Street and Oz, winning a Directors Guild of America award for the former. Kopple also directed A Conversation With Gregory Peck and Bearing Witness, as well as documentaries on Mike Tyson and Woody Allen. The latter film, Wild Man Blues, focuses on his Dixieland jazz tour and on Allen’s relationship with Soon-Yi Previn.
Her first non-documentary feature film, Havoc, starred Anne Hathaway… read more
My papaw was a coal miner in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, coming home to a wife, seven kids and farm work. I remember hearing stories about union issues and the often terrifying work conditions. All these things made this film very personal to me and it earned a rating of 5 stars; however, without the personal connections I might give it four. Definitely a film I'll keep thinking about.
Occasionally threatens to descend into a movie about assholes butting heads, but never quite falls into that trap and ultimately emerges as a powerful document of conflicts of power and opportunity at many levels. I felt claustrophobic and endangered just watching some of the footage shot in the mines. I think actually descending into these shafts would have been psychically crippling. I can't even imagine doing it.
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I don’t know why I put off renting the Criterion DVD of Harlan County, U.S.A. for so long. All I was missing was a gripping, irresistible document of an Appalachian coal mining community’s… read review
Death is in the air as you watch Harlan County USA. The film follows the miners of Harlan County as they go on a strike. The last time there was a strike in Harlan County, the situation caused a lot… read review