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672 Ratings

Harlan County USA

Directed by Barbara Kopple
United States, 1976


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.

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Harlan County USA Directed by Barbara Kopple

Critics reviews

it’s a work that typifies the vibrant, non-fiction film activism that is still evolving today. . . . It’s brilliant, observational, reactive, community-focused filmmaking.
August 11, 2018
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Kopple’s riveting documentary classic still reverberates truths about our forgotten working class. The film reminds us how organized labor used to be as American as apple pie, even in places like Kentucky—where unions were once part of the populist fabric.
February 15, 2017
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Kopple’s film is filled not just with the talk — aggrieved, mournful, funny, inflamed — of the miners and their families but with their songs. When bird-boned Florence Reece, nearing 75 at the time, sings her anthem “Which Side Are You On?” to an auditorium of strikers, her voice is almost whisper-soft. The lyrics, though, are emphatic, urgent, and always timely, as is Harlan County U.S.A.
February 14, 2017
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