Harlan County U.S.A.

Harlan County U.S.A. ★★★★

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

While I certainly agree with the political slant of the film and quite enjoy the solidarity and labor tactics on display, my favorite thing about this is the sublime visual quality. It has that soft hazy look that so many 70s movies have, as if Vilmos Zsigmond was behind the lens, and the compositions feel more sophisticated than your average documentary. Call me a celluloid fetishist, but I just couldn't stop thinking about how if this was filmed today it would be shot digitally and look like a YouTube video or ground level newscast, losing all texture and identity. The grain is essential, it's a perfect match for the gritty nature of coal mines and the relative squalor of rural Kentucky. Goes without saying, but Boyle was a real piece of shit. Dude literally had his opposition murdered, along with his wife and daughter. It sure would be nice if positive change could happen in this country (and world) without needless bloodshed, but well...My three favorite parts: the Black coal miner talking about how miners all look the same once they come out of the mines, the (seemingly chill) NYPD officer admitting what we all know, that his job is mostly bullshit, and when Lois pulls a gun out of her bosom. As always women are the backbone of the movement. Lastly, and perhaps this is an unfair judgment, but I was struck by how cogent a lot of these people were about the subject matter, dispelling the so-called hick stereotype. Now the film doesn't veer too heavily into politics outside of the union dispute, it's quite possible/probable these people were hardcore conservatives with regards to other topics, but it definitely has a left-wing perspective, and so I was dismayed thinking about how the children and grandchildren of these people are likely Trumpers. But perhaps that's just my Coastal Elitism™ showing.