[Marxism] Fwd: The New Face of the American Class Struggle » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Apr 3 06:38:56 MDT 2015

A 1954 film titled “Salt of the Earth” told the story of a courageous 
strike by the mostly Mexican-American zinc miners against a ruthless 
corporation that was based on a 1951 strike in New Mexico. Produced by 
Paul Jarrico and directed by Herbert Biberman, two Hollywood 
blacklistees, it was remarkable for both its power as film and for its 
fearless radicalism in a time when the left was being hounded out of 
existence. It derived much of its strength from the casting of New 
Mexican miners in leading roles, such as Juan Chacon, the president of a 
miner’s union, as a strike leader. And of critical importance in a time 
when reaction was running full throttle, the film depicted a victory of 
workers against insurmountable odds, just as had taken place in 1951.

I could not help but think about the 1954 classic when watching a 
screening of “The Hand that Feeds”, a documentary that opens today at 
Cinema Village in New York. If “Salt of the Earth” was a fictional film 
based on the facts of a real life strike, “The Hand that Feeds” is by 
contrast a factual film with all of the heartrending drama of a 
fictional film blessed with a “star” who led a struggle of twenty 
workers at Hot and Crusty, a bagel shop that was a stone’s throw from 
Bloomingdales in New York. In a panel on storytelling I chaired at this 
year’s Socially Relevant Film Festival, a documentary filmmaker 
explained that casting is as important for the documentary as it is for 
narrative films. One cannot imagine better casting for this documentary 
than the mostly undocumented Mexican workforce at Hot and Crusty, 
starting with Mahoma López, the 2014 counterpart to the Juan Chacon of 
sixty years ago.


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