Director: Barbara Kopple

The Oscar winner for Best Documentary Feature in 1976, Harlan County, USA is a landmark film in documentary cinema. The film documents the “Brookside Strike,” in which 180 coal workers stood up to the Eastover Coal Company after their refusal to sign a contract recognizing that said workers had joined the United Mine Workers of America. The strike led to violence from Eastover against the striking workers, through both thugs hired by the company and scabs. Harlan County, USA is hard to watch, but Kopple’s directing lends every person in the film empathy, carefully capturing their steely resilience in the face of impossible odds. Harlan County, USA is not only a brilliant documentary, but a powerful elegy to worker’s rights and the necessity of unions. —Andy Herrera