Reel Work 2011
by Richard von Busack
THE INVALUABLE labor film festival Reel Work now enters its 10th year with screenings in Silicon Valley and beyond, providing directions out of a world of nouveau feudalism—one’s alternative to Atlas Shrugged: Part I and the billion-dollar royal wedding.
The Tillman Story (April 27, 6:30pm, at San Jose City College Student Center) revives one of last year’s two or three best documentaries. It tells the tale of an Almaden Valley Army Ranger whose preventable death was used for propaganda by the U.S. Armed Forces. On hand to talk to the audience: Mary Tillman, Pat’s mother. We still don’t know why Pat Tillman’s diary was burned, but all the details of the attempted hoodwinking of Ms. Tillman (and the rest of the American people) is here in Amir Bar-Lev’s study.
On May 3 at 9:15 and 10:45am, also at SJCC Student Center: a tragic piece of strayed history is recovered. Harvest of Loneliness: The Bracero Program charts what one man might describe as the illegal immigrant problem, and another man might describe as the systematic effort by the ag business to keep farm labor dirt cheap. It’s perhaps not in the nature of old Mexican men to complain about hard work, but the subjects here are driven to humiliated tears by the memories of what they suffered. News photos (and a vintage Chet Huntley report from 1963) show the sometimes lethal conditions, including crowded, roasting tin barracks, in the Arizona cotton fields. A new generation of Mexican farmers is caught between earning pittances as guest workers and the flood of cheap NAFTA corn that’s been bankrupting family farms in Mexico.
On April 29 at 7pm at the San Jose Peace and Justice Center: Way Down in the Hole, Alex Johnston’s account of the war against coal-mining unionizers almost a century ago, reputedly the bloodiest strike in the history of American labor. (Its centerpiece, the Ludlow Massacre, is well known to Woody Guthrie fans.) Locked Out by Joan Sekler (April 28 at the SJCC Student Center) tells a happier story of how the ILWU endured a 107-day long strike against mining giant Rio Tinto. Sponsored by a host of labor unions, this fest couldn’t be a better present for International Worker’s Day.