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Harlan County USA [DVD]

Barbara Kopple    Exempt   DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Directors: Barbara Kopple
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Artefact Films
  • DVD Release Date: 29 Jun 2009
  • Run Time: 103 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001TLWR6E
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 55,641 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Product Description

Barbara Kopple's Oscar-winning film unflinchingly documents the coal miners' strike against the Eastover Mining Company in Harlan County, Kentucky in June 1973, capturing on film the miners' violent struggles with strikebreakers, local police and company thugs. Featuring a haunting soundtrack by country and bluegrass artists including Hazel Dickens and Merle Travis, the film chronicles the thirteen-month struggle between a community fighting to survive and a corporation dedicated to the bottom line.

Product Description

There seems to be 2 different editions with the same ASIN/EAN/UPC number - the best may be to ask the sellers which one of the two their own copy is. The Special Edition with a rare, more colourful cover (featuring among others the red stripes of the American flag), also offers many EXTRA FEATURES: 1/ Extra Scenes From The Film; 2/ Short Documentary: The Making Of Harlan County USA; 3/ Interview With Bluegrass Singer-Songwriter Hazel Dickens; 4/ Interview With Director John Sayles; 5/ Original Theatrical Trailer. May I refer you to the many ecstatic reviews on - Who would have thought at the time that a documentary about a regional conflict would become such a thought-provoking, CULT film?

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! 27 Jun 2011
This observational documentary shows a side of America Hollywood doesn't want you to see. The music used in this film comes straight from the heart of the people who lived through the ordeal of struggling to survive because of corrupt officials.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars gritty stuff 5 Aug 2009
A fascinating insight into events in Harlan County. What it must have been like in the 30's defies imagination.Excellent music score too.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Harlan County, U.S.A. is one of the great documentaries. It shows us the miners' strike against the Brookside Mine of the Eastover Mine Company, part of the giant Duke Power corporate empire. It is an emotionally wrenching look at what happens to some poorly educated, unsophisticated, hard-working people when they decide to come together in a struggle for the kinds of rights and protections most Americans take for granted.

In 1973 the miners at Brookside in Harlan County, Kentucky, decided to organize. They voted to join the United Mine Workers. Duke Power immediately said that they would recognize no contract with the UMW; they wouldn't even negotiate. The miners could either work under the old contract or lose their jobs. The miners struck. The miners worked in filthy, unsafe conditions deep underground, with minimal medical coverage, low wages and bare pensions. Black lung disease was commonplace but the company fought long and hard to make the case that there was no correlation between coal mining and any specific individual's medical situation. Mine safety was an incidental issue, compounded by the failure of the U. S. government to enforce even the lax regulations which were on the books. The miners and their families lived in company-owned hovels with no running water and only outdoor privies. Remember, this is 1973, not 1933. The company used the power of the state to their advantage. State troopers were assigned to keep the roads open so that strike breakers could reach the mines. The sheriff was largely invisible; when he was around he showed deference to the mine owners. The company brought in strike breakers and gun thugs to intimidate the miners. One miner's house was peppered with gunshot while he, his wife and their two children slept. Violence escalated.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  56 reviews
85 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best documentaries I've ever viewed... 11 Dec 2001
By Rosemary Thornton - Published on
When I told the librarian I wanted to see a video on coal mining, she handed me "Harlan County." I looked at the date - which indicated that the coal miners' strike featured in the movie took place in the early 1970s and I handed it back to her saying, "No, I'm interested in something with more history in it."
A few days later, I felt impelled to return to the library and get this VHS. I sat down to watch it one morning and could not turn it off. It's compelling, intriguing, educational and emotional. I cried several times, watching the struggle and learning more and more about a coal miner's life.
For the last few months, I've been doing research (in preparation for a book on Sears Homes) about Standard Oil's coal mines in Macoupin County, Illinois in the 1920s. "Harlan County" showed archival footage and presented information that showed what a miner's life looked like - through the ages. Duke Power's coal mines in Harlan County, Kentucky were so backwards and Standard Oil's coal mines in Macoupin County, Illinois were so progressive, that I learned more than I ever expected about early 1900s mining techniques.
The story about the man and the mules is something I'll never ever forget. Or the miner's conversation with the New York policeman. Thank God for the director Ms. Koppel, who was inspired to create this documentary! And for her having the wisdom and foresight to record these old miners' reminiscences of life in the coal mines in the early years of the 20th Century.
Suddenly, all the puzzle pieces from my months of book reading and research came together when I saw these old films and heard the miners talk.
I'll be watching it again and again - with my family, too. And I hope every person who uses electricity in this country will watch it, too.
An interesting aside - in the 1920s in Macoupin County, Illinois, one coal miner died (on average) for every 279,000 tons of coal that was mined. Between 1900-1969, 100,000 miners died in this country. Standard Oil's mines (operated from 1918-1925) in Macoupin County may have been the safest mines in the country, but several men died in those mines, too.
In 1918, Standard Oil of Indiana built 192 Sears Modern Homes for their (mostly immigrant) miners in Macoupin County. (The term "Modern Homes" simply meant that the houses had kitchens, bathrooms, running water, central heat and electricity.)
In 1973, Duke Power's miners in Harlan County were still living in shacks with no running water.
Rose Thornton
56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Mother was in this Movie. I lived it. 18 Dec 2004
By anjajosa - Published on
I read a comment from a reviewer who thought the film focused too much on the women and "glossed over" the past sacrifices of miners. I'm from Harlan County. My Mother was Lois Scott who was one of the women featured. I was growing up during the time and my mother risked everything to help the striking miners even though my father had a better, union job at another mine. She had "no dog in this fight" other than to help others. If you watch the film, it's plain the strike would have folded and failed had it not been for the women of the strike. My mothers father was a union organizer during the 1930's "bloody harlan" days. She wanted to help working class people with no thought of any personal gain. She passed away May 15 this year, and though I miss her so much myself, I know the world lost a working class hero that they needed even more than I did. The focus of the film was this strike, the 1930's references were background.
56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harlan County USA 5 Nov 2004
By Janie - Published on
I am from Harlan County, Kentucky. This movie is a compelling visual of my family and its rich history of roots and labor. Harlan was known back then as "Bloody Harlan" because of the conflicts regarding the area. There is a song called "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive", it embodies this documentary of the 70s. People spent their lives digging coal until they reached the bottom of their grave.

My mother grew up in those coal camps and knew no other life. She was pregnant with me during the filming of the documentary and worked at a small resturant where she met my daddy who was a coal miner. She stated that those times were hard and just left it at that...she did not speak about it very often and when she was cut short. My dad made it through the riots and protesting, but he died in those mines in 1980 from a rock fall because the saftey conditions were so poor. My stepfather has worked in the coal mines for almost 30 years. He, like many others in Harlan are aware of the dangers when traveling into this deep graveside that holds so many.

I have watched this movie many times with my grandmother who was right there on the picket lines protesting these conditions. When we watch it now, she always points at the television and know that is such and's funny how she never forgets who and what that time was about.

My generation of Harlan County USA has seen little of what our parents and grandparents endured back in the 1970s. My brother has now entered the world of coal mining and the tradition continues. It is much safer now. My father wants to be a Mine and Saftey inspector because he remembers what it was like and how far they have come. Coal mining is our legacy, our way of life. We hold it high and its the most respectable, honest way to make a living that you can have in our town.

We in Harlan County will never forget the documentary that showed the world who we are and what we are made of...and let it be known, that we will never back down from a fight.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful! 21 Nov 2004
By Gregor von Kallahann - Published on
This acclaimed 1976 documentary about a 1972 miners' strike in Harlan County, Kentucky has been on my "must-see" list for years now. I actually find myself feeling a little embarrassed that it's taken me almost 30 years to finally see it. On the other hand, I find myself agreeing completely with other reviewers (both on Amazon and elsewhere) who find it as relevant today as it was in the 70s. And maybe more hardhitting too.

I recall being vaguely aware of some of the United Mine Workers' concerns as a young man, but in the post-Vietnam)/Watergate era, it probably was something of a back burner story. I'm sure if I had seen this film at age 23, I would have been properly outraged. To be honest, however, I'm not sure how long that outrage would have lasted. In that tumultuous era there seemed to be so much else to be upset about. (Not that there isn't today, but I do have at least a little more perspective.)

Now more than 30 years after the events this film depicts, we can at least begin to sort out and separate this particular human drama from all the others that were clamoring for our attention at the time. And appreciate it on its own terms, at the same time understanding that issues of social injustice and exploitation were emblematic of the day.

Filmmaker Barbara Kopple and her crew did a masterful job of capturing the lives and struggles of the mining families of Harlan County. These are people you get to know and care about over the course of the two hour documentary. It's a group portrait, of course, and you know that there's more to these folks' individual lives than the camera can show. But those moments the camera does capture are poignant and dramatic, and ultimately profoundly moving.

I was glad to read from one poster below that the living conditions for Harlan County residents and workers really have improved over the past few decades. It's heartening to know that the struggle of the current generation's parents and grandparents yielded a better life for their progeny. But we know that similar struggles are taking place all over the globe. Saying that this classic documentary is still relevant 30 years on is not a just a cliche. It's a bitter truth.

(If you're at all prone to running your own double bills, you might also be interested in John Sayles' affecting drama MATEWAN about an earlier era in the miners' struggle.)
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real-Life Rancor 4 Sep 2000
By Jason Vance - Published on
Dirt-poor miners struggle (to the death, in many cases) to unionize against the insurmountably evil coal bosses in this Oscar-winning documentary. Watch in awe (no joke) as simple men, women, and children, exemplify the true meaning of chasing the American dream. After watching "HCU," you'll never complain about YOUR job again. Ever.
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