A few Mondays ago, I watched Harlan County U.S.A., a documentary directed by Barbara Kopple. Released in 1978 and filmed between 1973 and 76, it is a powerful chronicle of a coal miner’s strike in Kentucky. 180 miners fought against Duke Power Company for about a year to obtain rights like health benefits, sick days, running water and toilets in their company owned homes and better pay. Kopple lets the people tell their story of the strike, through their actions and words and also uses the music of the area, bluegrass and country, to convey their lives.
It’s a really powerful and moving film. The story that’s told is complex but the film does a good job of telling it. It is strange to sit and watch and to remind one’s self that what the miners and their families were being put through weren’t eradicated by contemporary life or the massive boom in the economy post WWII. I had to constantly remind myself that it was filmed in 1973, not 1930. Kopple makes sure that you side with the miners
That said, I keep up with “local” news from where I grew up and where my family still resides. In 2006, a miner was killed at R&D Coal Mine outside of Tremont, PA. There have been articles in all three local news sources about the owner, mine supervisor and another miner being charged with involuntary man slaughter in the death of the miner</a>, which is rare for anyone to be charged with anything following a mining accident.