- Salt of the Earth (review)
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 4, Number 3, September 1974
- pp. 50-51
- View Citation
- Additional Information
On September 19th the Histonans Film Committee will begin a series ofmonthly film screenings at the City University ofNew York. The first film shown will be Black Man's Land (1973) on colonialism in Kenya and Jomo Kenyatta. This film was well received in England and has only recently become available in the United States. The screening will be held at the C.U.N.Y. Graduate Center, 33 W 42nd St., New York City, and will begin in the auditorium at 7:30 P.M. A.H.A. PAMPHLET: TEACHING HISTORY WITH FILM The Histonans Film Committee is pleased to announce that the American Historical Association has published a pamphlet on Teaching History With Film, The pamphlet was prepared by the editors of Film & History for the Association, and it becomes the second in their series "Discussions on Teaching." Copies are available for $1 through the A.H.A., 400 A St. S.E., Washington, D.C. FILM REVIEWS Salt of the Earth, 1954, 94 minutes. The power of a first rate fictionalized documentary lies in its ability to take the viewer "inside" the events, exploring repercussions in the lives of participants of an historical drama, reaching for universals in human conduct which go far beyond the immediate historical situation under treatment. In the Antioch Review, (Vol. 32, No. 3), Joan Mellon remarked that when fictionalized documentaries are most successful they, "render the relationship of personal experience to the social order so subtly that the work reproduces at once a milieu and the individuals whose values typify it." A relatively unknown film ofthe early 1950's, Salt ofthe Earth, advances boldly toward this goal. The film, which was directed by Herbert Biberman from a screenplay by Michael Wilson, concerns a strike, which took place in a New Mexico mining town in 1951-52. A three-part struggle emerges as the strike drags on month after month. On the surface is the dispute between the workers and the bosses, but beneath is the struggle ofthe wives for equality with their husbands, and the confrontation of the white miners by their Chicano co-workers. The women, who had been unsuccessful in their attempt to persuade their men to include indoor plumbing as one of the strike demands, band together and take over the picket line after their men are stopped by a Taft Hartley injunction. The men, forced into the home, come to graphically understand the burdens of their women. The focus is directed into the home of one of the Chicano strike leaders, an archetypal patriarch. His changing relationship with his wife through the months ofthe strike clearly demonstrates the pain involved in role reversal, although the wife is gradually able to make her husband see that the women's new freedom can, "Push them all up together." The miners eventually win the strike as the wives clearly demonstrate equality in the common struggle to better their lot. 50 Salt of the Earth's value as an historical document is greatly enhanced by its use ofthe actual participants of the struggle in addition to professional actors and actresses. The presence ofthe workers and their wives lends an air ofauthenticity not often encountered in other efforts ofthis type. Clearly a product of its age, the film was made with private financing by blacklisted Hollywood refugees working under the shadow of McCarthy era politics. Due to major studio pressure it was never widely distributed and its investors lost their money. The movie's financial failure postponed for at least a decade the arrival of an independent American film source, which might have provided a counterpoise to Hollywood's vacuous products. Twenty years later, its skillful presentation as well as its timely message make this little known production worthy of wide viewing by people interested in labor organization, racism and dependence, in addition to the personal ramifications in the lives of individuals who strive to overcome these injustices and personalize the goal of liberation. Frederic Chiles University of California, Santa Barbara Paths of Glory (1957) 86 min. b&w This film, directed by Stanley Kubrick, has already established itself as a classic indictment of war and the military establishment's sense ofjustice. The setting: the...