Tag Archives: Mining

From the Shadows of Power

This awarding winning documentary is a powerful story set in coalfields of Appalachia, Wales and England. It documents firsthand the turmoil in the aftermath of the British Miners Strike of 1984/85 and the parallel struggle of the UMWA in its long running battle with Pittston Coal. This film brings to life the real struggles of working people at the pivotal moment when state power was used to open the floodgates to global capital, aid the destruction of coalfield communities and its labor institutions. Chronicling the critical role played by working class women in these watershed events, it features economist Helen Lewis, Reverend Jesse Jackson, women miners, Betty Heathfield of Britain’s Women Against Pit Closures, NUMs Arthur Scargill, and Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock.


Directed by: Jean Donohue



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600,000 Miners Strike Led by John L. Lewis (1919)

1:54; U.S.

Synopsis: “In November, 1919, Acting President John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers led 600,000 miners in a five week strike that crippled the bituminous coal industry and the nation as well. The strike was in direct defiance of a court injunction against such action and Woodrow Wilson denounced Lewis as a dictator. This was John L. Lewis’ first clash with a United States president; he missed battle with no other president from then on up to Eisenhower.

On December 11, President Wilson and Attorney General Palmer presented Lewis with a proposal that would send the miners back to work: a 14% wage increase (they were getting $2.00 per day) and a commission to work out other questions in the dispute such as hours, health and safety standards. Lewis accepted immediately and the men returned to work, proving their loyalty to their country, he said. Attorney General Palmer commended Mr. Lewis for his wise and patriotic action.

The coal operators, however, charged Palmer with surrender and said that he feared a terrible situation if the government had been forced to jail the miners. A Congressional Committee decided to investigate the strike.”



Labor Unrest in Coal During and After World War II

4:16; U.S.

Director: United Mine Workers of America

Synopsis: Newsreel about the UMW’s fights with the Roosevelt administration during World War II.



The Hunger Games (2012)

142m; U.S.

Director: Gary Ross

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland

Synopsis: In a dystopic future North America called Panem, the wealthy elite who live in the central city (known as the Capitol) exploit the impoverished workers of the rest of the country who are divided into twelve districts.  The Capitol employs a range of social controls, including the Hunger Games, an annual event where two children from each district are thrown into an arena and fight until only one is left alive.

Into these games is thrust Katniss Everdeen, the daughter of a coal miner, who must use her wits and skills to survive while trying to maintain her humanity, even as her examples of resistance and solidarity begin to inspire some of the districts towards rebellion.




1913 Massacre


Director: Ken Ross & Louis V. Galdieri

Synopsis: 1913 Massacre follows singer/songwriter Arlo Guthrie to the town of Calumet, a once-thriving mining town on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula still haunted by the tragic events that inspired Woody Guthrie’s ballad, ’1913 Massacre.’

On December 24, 1913, the striking copper miners of Calumet were gathered with their wives and children for a holiday party at the Italian Hall. After the festivities had begun, someone — to this day, no one knows who — yelled Fire!

Despite efforts to keep the Hall under control, panic took hold of the crowd. The miners, their wives and children made a mad rush for the stairs. In the ensuing chaos, seventy-four people were crushed and suffocated to death on the stairway. Fifty-nine of the dead were children. There was no fire.

In the version of events that found its way into Woody Guthrie’s song, the “copper-boss thug-men” had plotted to yell Fire! and were holding the door of Italian Hall shut, so that the miners and their families could not escape.

The town itself is still divided over exactly what happened. And no one can explain why they tore down the Italian Hall in 1984.

1913 Massacre captures the last living witnesses of the 1913 tragedy and reconstructs Calumet’s past from individual memories, family legends and songs, tracing the legacy of the tragedy to the present day, when the town –out of work, out of money, out of luck — still struggles to come to terms with this painful episode from its past.




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Divide (2011)

22m; U.S.

Director: Michael T. Miller and Maura Ugarte 

Synopsis: When it comes to politics, retired coal miner Sebert Pertee sees one big problem: the rich keep getting richer while working people lose ground. As he canvasses for pro-union candidates in 2008, he finds his community more focused on the race of the Democratic presidential nominee than on their own interests.

In McDowell County, West Virginia, long a union and Democratic Party stronghold, the battle for white working-class voters is taking an ugly turn. As politicians and pundits fan the racial flames, Sebert finds that race-baiting has long been a tried and true tactic to divide the miners. He’s determined to change the conversation, even if it rankles his neighbors. Race-baiting and union values collide in this short film, as Sebert struggles to take the fight to the real enemy.





The Devil’s Miner (2005)

82m; Bolivia

Director: Kief Davidson & Richard Ladkani

Synopsis: ‘The Devil’s Miner’ tells the story of 14-year-old Basilio who worships the devil for protection while working in a Bolivian silver mine to support his family.

Contact: Urban Landscapes Productions and La Mita Loca Films

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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Children, Documentary



The Kingmaker – Don Blankenship (2005)

30m; U.S.

Synopsis: This documentary focuses on Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship. Anna Sale of West Virginia Public Broadcasting produced “The Kingmaker.” It first aired Nov. 3, 2005, as part of the program “Outlook” on West Virginia PBS.

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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Documentary



The Oldest New River (1980)

21m; U.S.

Synopsis: A trip back in time to the early days of the New River Community, Thurmond, WV. Once a larger raildroad town than Cincinatti, Thurmond and the local area was a booming coal mining region. Many of the buildings no longer exist. Slowly, the area is slipping into the growing forest. See film “Thurmond.” Background: In 1980 Steve Fesenmaier and Ken Sullivan traveled to John Dragon’s Class IV whitewater company on the New River. Dragon gave them a U-matic video copy of a recent TV show made in North Carolina about Thurmond. Fesenmaier and film archivist Richard Fauss worked together to have the film transferred to 16 mm film for showing around the state.



The Proud Valley (1940)

76m; U.S.

Director: Pen Tennyson

Cast: Paul RobesonEdward Chapman and Simon Lack

Synopsis: Paul Robeson stars as a black miner in Wales. Filmed on location in the South Wales coalfield the heart of the main coal mining region of Wales, Proud Valley documents the hard realities of Welsh coal miners’ lives. Robeson’s part is based on the real-life adventures of a Black miner from West Virginia who drifts to Wales by way of England, searching for work. Robeson sings “Deep River” at a Welch music festival.

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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Drama, Working Class


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