Building on my podcast last week with Jarod Roll, his book discusses briefly a 1940 film called Men and Dust. This is a leftist film about the life of the lead and zinc miners in the Tri-State area of OK/MO/KS. It’s really amazing.
This is like seeing Dos Passos filmed. Part straightforward narrative, part genuine experimental film a bit like the relevant parts of the USA Trilogy, this film is supportive of the Mine, MIll campaign to organize these workers (which failed pretty miserably because these workers were so conservative). It’s amazing that the campaign didn’t work because the lives of these miners is awful. The film focuses, especially toward the end, on the problems with silicosis, but also shows the enormous environmental damage of the mines (surprising even me a bit), the incredible poverty of the workers, and the brokedown life of the region. And yet, these workers were so wanting to believe in capitalism and so unwilling to organize collectively that they chose to live like this.