Mines, Miners and Mining

Comradeship / Kameradschaft

G. W. Pabst | Germany | 1931 | 90 minutes

In a coal mine on the French-German border the aftermath of World War I is still being played out: French prosperity and chauvinism hard up against German inflation and unemployment. Then there is a disaster in the French wing of the mine and it is up to the German miners go to the rescue.

The Proud Valley

Penrose Tennyson | UK | 1940 | 76 minutes

Paul Robeson plays a discharged American sailor who winds up in a Welsh mining village where he proves an asset to both the local choir and at the coal face. Unfortunately a disaster closes the mine, until the coming of the Second World War necessitates that it be re-opened – a task that entails someone undertaking what basically amounts to a suicide mission.

The Molly Maguires

Martin Ritt | USA | 1970 | 124 minutes

Pennsylvania, 1876: a secret society of Irish immigrant mine workers, the Molly Maguires, respond to the brutality of the bosses with acts of sabotage and violence. A detective, also an Irishman, is hired to infiltrate the Molly Maguires and finds his sympathies and loyalties tested. Sean Connery plays the Maguires’ leader, Richard Harris the detective. Director Martin Ritt and screenwriter Walter Bernstein both suffered under the Hollywood blacklist due to their political beliefs; they later collaborated again on the blacklist-themed The Front, showing elsewhere in our program.

Harlan County USA

Barbara Kopple | USA | 1976 | 103 minutes

Winner of the best feature documentary at the 1977 Academy Awards, Barbara Kopple’s film tells the story of the Brookside colliery miners’ strike against the Eastover Mining Company after the company refused to acknowledged the miners’ unionisation.

Germinal

Claude Berri | France | 1993 | 160 minutes

Adapted from the novel by Emile Zola, Germinal depicts a miner’s strike and repression by the authorities in mid-19th century France. Gerard Depardieu and Miou Miou star.

Blind Shaft

Li Yang | China / Germany / Hong Kong | 2003 | 92 minutes

Quite literally an underground film from China. The writer-director shot his vérité footage inside illegal Chinese mines without government approval. This is doubly understandable when you consider the plot. Two criminal drifters have developed a scam: they befriend one of the many uprooted men looking for work and tell him that they know of a job at a rural mine, but that the man must pretend to be their brother in order to be hired. Once they go down the shaft with their new relative, they stage his accidental death, and, as the dead man’s nearest relations, collect payoff money from the mine’s owners.

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