Interview: Organising In Cyberspace
Industrial: How Low Is Low
Industrial: Cloak and Dagger
Unions: Bad Medicine
History: Right Turn, Clyde
Economics: Long Division
International: Union Proud
Politics: Howard’s Sick Joke
Indigenous: The year of living dangerously
Review: Lights, Camera, Strike!
Culture: News Front
The Locker Room
Lights, Camera, Strike!
Like a lot of folk, I likes to kick back on the lounge and enjoy a good flick sans commercials, and, to this end Iï¿½ve always fancied myself as something of a film buff.
Over summer I hit upon the novel idea of combining my love of sitting on my fat posterior with my proud commitment to organised labour and set out to track down what I consider to be the ten greatest union films of all time.
No doubt this list will prove to be controversial, and some would include other films, and disregard some on this list. Such opinions are valid and should be directed to the front bar of the Railway Hotel, as this list is far from exhaustive or objective.
The Honourable Wally Norman scrapes in at tenth spot, not because it is a particularly good film, but because itï¿½s Australian. It also features a cameo by H.G. Nelson whose picturesque visage should anoint the silver screen more often; he gives other blokes hope. Simply put, it is the tale of a meatworker who accidentally finds himself elected to parliament. A harmless fantasy in an age that spews out Malcolm Turnbull.
I came across ninth placed The Organizer on SBS when the cricket in Adelaide was washed out. Its in Italian and set around the turn of the Century in Northern Italy, with a charming story about a lefty university professor forced to put his ratbag politics into practice after he gets sacked from the uni and takes a job teaching in a mill town, probably the best romance union movie ever made.
Sylvester Stallone is out of character as a Teamsterï¿½s union boss in eighth placed F.I.S.T. Sometimes controversial, it purports to tell the story of the teamsterï¿½s from Jimmy Hoffaï¿½s point of view. Some excellent action shots from the re-enacted thirties picket lines.
Gerard Depardieu stars in the French classic Germinal in seventh place, an adaptation from what is apparently a great book by some bloke called Zola. The French sure know how to do a film, and they know how to strike. This film combines those two talents wonderfully.
Our sixth placed film can be hard to find, but is well worth the search. Brother John tells of the secret life of cleaners and was made by Sidney Poitier, famous for Uptown Saturday Night and To Sir With Love.
Some might be surprised to see this famous film coming in fifth, but itï¿½s still a quality film. Sally Field is very touching as Norma Rae, the single mum who helps unionise a southern textile factory. Slipped a few places for the mawkish Hollywood love plot and can be a bit dated.
Hardly the most politically correct film, but a great belly laugh as Peter Sellers brings the laughs thick and fast in the fourth placed Iï¿½m All Right Jack. Every union stereotype in the book is explored here in a very witty film about a workplace long gone these days.
Our third placed film, Matewan, is a modern classic that can still be found in many video stores. This amazing film tells the story of the unionisation of a Kentucky coalmine through the eyes of a fourteen-year-old miner. James Earl Jones, who was famous for being the voice of Darth Vader is among the many great performances in a film famous for many lines, including ï¿½any union that keeps a man out because of the colour of his skin aint a union, itï¿½s a goddam clubï¿½.
Richard Lowensteinï¿½s Strikebound comes in at second with a lively tale of Victorian coalminerï¿½s strike. The soundtrack by INXS provides a bouncy background to a story at once humorous and tragic.
And at number one, the immortal Silkwood features Meryl Streep at her best as she plays union rep Karen Silkwood, in a fictionalised account of her disappearance after coming to prominence as a whistleblower in a corrupt US Power Plant, the support cast, which includes Cher, and the fact that there are sparkies in it, make this a very uplifting film.
Mandrake the Electrician.
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