Sunday, April 26, 2009

Salt of the Earth

Made in 1954 and during the height of the McCarthy era by a group of blacklisted filmmakers, Salt of the Earth is a powerful and emotionally charged feature length film. It was banned by the US government and is remarkable, not just because of the fact that the producers used only five cast members who were professional actors — the rest were locals from Grant County, New Mexico, or members of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, Local 890 (many of whom were part of an actual strike that inspired the story) — but because of its pro-feminist and anti-patriarchy themes years before the civil rights movement and 60's wave of feminism.

Salt of the Earth is based on a 1950 strike by zinc miners in Silver City, New Mexico. Against a backdrop of social injustice, a riveting family drama is played out by the characters of Ramon and Esperanza Quintero, a Mexican-American miner and his wife. In the course of the strike, Ramon and Esperanza find their roles reversed: an injunction against the male strikers moves the women to take over the picket line, leaving the men to domestic duties. The women evolve from men's subordinates into their allies and equals.

The copyright was never renewed, so it is now in the public domain and free to download.

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