Fall 2016 Film Series: The Fight Against the 1%

Fall 2016 LoyolaFilm Series:  The Fight Against the 1%

 Sundays,  2pm

 Loyola University (downtown) Corboy Law Center, room  301,   

25 E. Pearson Street, Chicago (one block north of Chicago & State Red line L stop)


September  18           Shock Doctrine                                78 min       2009

 A documentary adaptation Naomi Klein’s 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine. An investigation of disaster capitalism, based on Naomi Klein’s proposition that neo-liberal capitalism feeds on natural disasters, war and terror to establish its dominance.
The Shock Doctrine vividly shows how disaster capitalism – the rapid-fire corporate re-engineering of societies still reeling from shock – did not begin with September 11, 2001.
The films traces its origins back fifty years, to the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman, which produced many of the leading neo-conservative and neo-liberal thinkers whose influence is still profound in Washington today.
Connections are drawn between economic policy, shock and awe warfare and covert CIA-funded experiments in electroshock and sensory deprivation in the 1950s, research that helped write the torture manuals used today in Guantanamo Bay.
The Shock Doctrine follows the application of these ideas through our contemporary history, showing in riveting detail how well-known events of the recent past have been deliberate, active theatres for the shock doctrine, among them: Pinochet’s coup in Chile in 1973, the Falklands War in 1982, the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Asian Financial crisis in 1997 and Hurricane Mitch in 1998.


September 25          The US vs John Lennon                                 99min.   2006

 “The U.S. vs. John Lennon” focuses on his politicization both during and after the Vietnam War. Towards the end of the Beatles’ career, Lennon began taking the band in a new direction, using their popularity to circulate a message of peace in songs such as “Revolution.” He became even more involved after the band broke up, and the film traces his growing awareness and dissent through both archival footage–much of which had lain forgotten in vaults for decades–and interviews with those close to him.

The U.S. government, which had already been monitoring his actions for some time, attempted to deport Lennon for fear of the threat he posed to the nation. The film also portrays Lennon’s close relationship with Yoko Ono and the effect she had on his art, including an interview with the Japanese performance artist and muse that sheds much light on the couple’s intimate history.  Lennon personally had to deal with  the US government’s repressive restrictions on civil liberties. The creative ways he fought for expression and peace, meanwhile, expand upon the known brilliance of an exemplary and outspoken advocate for peace.


October  2             You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train            78m 2004

 This is a documentary on the life of Howard Zinn — noted author, historian and social activist. Zinn authored numerous books on U.S. history including the classic A People’s History of the United States. The film weaves archival footage with interviews with Alice Walker, Daniel Berrigan, Noam Chomsky, and others.

The film is an abridged version of both his life story and his political philosophy. It’s mostly first-person, with Zinn describing his working-class upbringing, his service as a bomber in WWII, his years in the labor, civil-rights, and antiwar movements, and his long fight to make academia more activist. Zinn is a charismatic storyteller . The film provides great background information for teachers on the life and activism of Howard Zinn in the civil rights, anti-war, and free speech movements.

No film   October 9


October  16                Let the Fire Burn                                     95 min 2013

 In 1985 the US bombed its own citizens when the Philadelphia police dropped military-grade explosives onto a MOVE home. Founded by John Africa in 1972 MOVE (originally “Christian Movement for Life”) was a small group of Black Liberationists who subscribed to a unique lifestyle through their cultural and religious philosophy.

Let The Fire Burn, first details the Philadelphia Police Department’s 1978 raid on MOVE’s Powelton Village home. During the raid, police officer, James Ramp was shot and killed. Ballistics and state evidence pointed to friendly fire. Yet, nine MOVE members were convicted of the murder of one cop and sentenced to 30 to 100 years each in federal prison. Two days later, their Powelton Village home was destroyed by city bulldozers as MOVE was forced to relocate.

Seven years later on May 13th, 1985, over 200 Philadelphia police officers gathered outside of MOVE’s home on Osage Avenue. Over 10,000 rounds of police ammunition was used against unarmed citizens. Two state-sponsored C4  bombs were dropped on a  house full of people.

When informed about the fire, Philadelphia’s then Black Mayor, Wilson Goode, consciously responded on live video to “Just let the fire burn.” A raging fire that had already killed 11 people (5 of whom were children) was intentionally allowed to spread. In just a few brief hours, 61 homes were completely destroyed—memories and life-savings leveled to worthless ashes.

Only two MOVE survivors exited the burning building – activist, Ramona Africa and a young boy named Birdie, whose testimony and childhood descriptions were documented throughout the film. In the wake of such an atrocity, not one city official, police officer or fireman was ever held accountable. Eight of the nine MOVE members, however have remained in prison for 35 years on trumped-up charges. As Let The Fire Burn clearly illustrates, justice is still waiting in this case. Truth is still waiting to be unleashed.


Sunday October 23               The Occupation of the American Mind:

Israel’s Public Relations War in the US                                          2016          85 min

Israel’s ongoing military occupation of Palestine and its repeated invasions of the Gaza strip have triggered a fierce backlash against Israeli policies virtually everywhere in the world — except the United States. The Occupation of the American Mind takes an eye-opening look at this critical exception, zeroing in on pro-Israel public relations efforts within the U.S. Narrated by Roger Waters and featuring leading observers of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the film explores how the Israeli government, the U.S. government, and the pro-Israel lobby have joined forces, often with very different motives, to shape American media coverage of the conflict in Israel’s favor. The Occupation of the American Mind provides a sweeping analysis of Israel’s decades-long battle for the hearts, minds, and tax dollars of the American people — a battle that has only intensified over the past few years in the face of widening international condemnation of Israel’s increasingly right-wing policies.


Sunday October 30             1877: The Grand Army of Starvation  1984    30 min

               10 Days That Changed America: The Homestead Strike  2006   44min

1877: The Grand Army of Starvation

A major depression, worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s, shook the US from 1873-1878.  By the US centenary, a nationwide working class rebellion brought the country to a standstill in the summer of 1877. Eighty thousand railroad workers walked out, joined by over 500,000 other workers outraged by the excesses of the railroad companies and the starvation wages from a four-year economic depression. At that time, the power and control of the railroad companies played the same role as steel, auto and oil corporations later played. Police, state militia, and  finally federal troops were used for the first time to crush the workers uprising, shooting down unarmed strikers and allies, leaving more than two hundred dead and thousands injured. The Great Uprising inaugurated a new era of conflict over the meaning of America in the industrial age. As a result the railway unions were destroyed.

“To see this film is to enter a world of marvelous colors and remarkable drawings . . . Then you realize that the most violent incident in American labor history, and one of the most important ever, has just been carefully explained. . . . Don’t go see 1877 because you think you need a history lesson . . . Go because you want to see what a vanished industrial world looks like, and how a revolutionary moment in America feels.”  Paul Buhle, The Guardian



10 Days That Changed America: The Homestead Strike

With Henry Clay Frick as the bad cop, steelmaster Andrew Carnegie sought to oust the union from his recently acquired Homestead Works. In July 1892, Frick locked the union out, then sent two barges of armed Pinkerton “detectives” to guard the mill so scabs could tend its furnaces. The locals met the barges with gunfire, taking the Pinkertons prisoner. The uprising drew international media attention, but was soon crushed with the aid of the state militia. Labor leaders were prosecuted, harassed, ruined. Unions were barred from the steel industry for the next 40 years.

With a script penned by Jack Youngelson, director/producer Rory Kennedy doesn’t just lay this history bare; she flays the skin from the industrialist’s rotting bones. The documentary notes the growing disparities between rich and poor at the time, and highlights dreary working and living conditions. (Arguably, it makes too much of these: Local labor historian Charlie McCollester says that before the strike, Homestead was a worker’s paradise compared to other company towns. Frick’s machinations are what turned it into a Hobbesian nightmare.)

The documentary’s half-dozen academics side with the workers, and even Frick’s descendent, Martha Frick Sanger, doesn’t sound terribly sympathetic to her great-grandfather’s cause. By the end of the documentary’s 45 minutes, I found myself feeling sorry for Carnegie. Almost.

Sadly, while the film was made with help from the local Steel Industry Heritage Corporation, little of it was shot here. (Having outsourced its steel jobs and replaced them with shopping, Homestead must outsource much of its heritage too.) The film is also plagued by modern film re-enactments, the curse of many History Channel productions. Still, by shooting the “historic” footage on grainy Super-8 film, Kennedy kept it from looking too much like a movie in social-studies class. She also breathes new life into old photos: Computer effects turn archival photographs into 3-D dioramas, which literally draw the viewer inside Homestead’s mills and working-class ghettos.

Indeed, Kennedy and Youngelson’s most impressive accomplishment is keeping the material fresh, even for those who’ve heard it before. What was at stake in Homestead wasn’t just wages, the film argues: It was the idea that workers should have an equity stake in, and be consulted about, their employer’s decisions. As one of the documentary’s talking heads puts it, the workers believed “you owned your job” and that “a right to it seemed fundamental.”

Such ideas are “unfathomable to us today,” he adds. And that, as this forceful, well-made documentary concludes, may be the measure of what we lost in 1892.


Sunday November 6    Tsar to Lenin  1937  63 min     Lenin: Leader of the Bolshevik Revolution     1970 38 min James Cameron

Tsar to Lenin  a remarkable cinematic account of the events leading up to the formation of the Soviet Union.

Max Eastman’s discusses the autocratic nature of Tsar Nicholas II and the royal family’s disinterest in the struggles of the poor and working class in Russia. They were in charge and paid little mind to the struggles of the masses.

This is truly one of the great historical films of the 20th century. This footage is priceless.

Vladimir Lenin is shown multiple times. “He was free of any trace of greed or personal ambition,” Eastman says. “He devoted every working hour of his life to the cause of liberating the toiling of the whole world from capitalist exploitation. His mind was as flexible as his purpose was fixed.”

“Russia belongs to the workers and peasants. All power to the soviet,” narrates Eastman, as images of a fiery Lenin is featured, surrounded by his comrades.

Speaking quite passionately about Lenin’s communist goals, Eastman says of V.I. Lenin: “He never lost faith in the goal of a liberated humanity. Living without war, without nationalism, without class exploitation. In friendliness and decent justice throughout the earth.”


Sunday November 13        10,000 Black Men Named George  —A. Philip Randolph and the Sleeping Car Porters  2002  89 min

Union activist A. Philip Randolph’s work to organize the Black porters of the Pullman Rail Company in the 1920s. This is the powerful  story of the first Black-controlled union, The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

When the Great Depression struck America in the 1920s finding work was hard, but if you were poor and black it was virtually impossible. Working as a porter for the Pullman Rail Company was an option, but it meant taking home a third as much as white employees and working some days for free. You could forget about being called by your real name — all Black porters were simply called “George” after George Pullman.

Asa Philip Randolph, a black journalist and socialist trying to establish a voice for these forgotten workers, agrees to fight for the Pullman porters’ cause and form the first black union in America. Livelihoods and lives would be put at risk in the attempt to gain 10,000 signatures of the men known only as “George.” This is the true story of how a courageous leader came to be known as “the most dangerous man in America.”


Sunday November 20              An Injury to One  – The Story of the Wobbly Frank Little  2002  53min  Mother Jones:  America’s Most Dangerous Woman   2007 24 min

An InjuryTo One chronicles the mysterious death of Wobbly organizer Frank Little, a story whose grisly details have taken on a legendary status in the state. Much of the extant evidence is inscribed upon the landscape of Butte and its surroundings. Thus, a connection is drawn between the unsolved murder of Little, and the attempted murder of the town itself.

Butte’s history was entirely shaped by its exploitation by the Anaconda Mining Company, which, at the height of WWI, produced ten percent of the world’s copper from the town’s depths. War profiteering and the company’s extreme indifference to the safety of its employees (mortality rates in the mines were higher than in the trenches of Europe) led to Little’s arrival. “The agitator” found in the desperate, agonized miners overwhelming support for his ideas, which included the abolishment of the wage system and the establishment of a socialist commonwealth.

In August 1917, Little was abducted by still-unknown assailants who hung him from a railroad bridge. Pinned to his chest was a note that read 3′-7′-77″, dimensions of a Montana grave. Eight thousand people attended his funeral, the largest in Butte’s history.

The murder provides An Injury to One with a taut, suspenseful narrative, but it isn’t the only story. Butte’s history is bound with the entire history of the American left, the rise of McCarthyism, the destruction of the environment, and even the birth of the detective novel. Former Pinkerton detective  “One of American independent cinema’s great achievements of the past decade.” —Dennis Lim, Los Angeles Times


Mother Jones:  America’s Most Dangerous Woman   2007 24 min

Mother Jones: America’s Most Dangerous Woman is a documentary about the amazing labor heroine, Mary Harris Jones, known as “Mother” Jones. Mother Jones mobilized thousands of workers in struggles for justice in the early 20th century.

The documentary shows how Mother Jones’ organizing career influenced the history of early 20th century United States. Featuring historian Elliott Gorn, leading biographer of Mother Jones, it shows how Mother Jones transformed personal and political grief and rage into an effective persona that led workers into battles that changed the course of history.
For labor activists such as Mother Jones, labor and civil rights such as freedom of speech and assembly were a goal rather than a reality. The documentary evokes the terrible conditions and labor oppression that motivated her to travel across the country, mobilizing thousands to fight back.

This documentary “should be shown in schools all over the country.” Howard Zinn, author of The People’s History of the United States

A “music video” of the 1914 “Ludlow massacre” and Mother Jones’ role in these events brings to life a forgotten vista of brutalities that immigrant laborers have long faced. The use of hired mercenaries and public police forces to brutalize and suppress workers rights was a common condition of the period.

The documentary includes rare photos as well as the only existing live footage of her at age “100″ proclaiming she is still a radical, still awaits the day that the people will “replace this moneyed civilization,” and “longs for the day when labor will have the destination of the nation in her own hands.”


Sunday December  4         Moments with Fidel (2004) and excerpts from Fidel: The Untold Story     

 Since revolutionary Cuban forces toppled the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship in 1959, Fidel Castro has embodied the Cuban Revolution. This original documentary from the Cuban Film Archive uses rarely seen, archival footage and audio from the toppling of Batista in 1959 to 2004, to create a collage of pivotal moments in the life Fidel and the revolution. The film includes his redefinition of Cuba’s role facing scarcity in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Hear Fidel addressing millions in Havana about the Cuban people’s struggles for land reforms and increased sugarcane production, and against the threat of U.S. imperialist intervention.


Sunday December 11                Salt of the Earth                       1954 94 min

Salt of the Earth  provides one of the best examples of blacklisted filmmaking in the 1950s. Few films were so affected, from every possible direction, by the House Un-American Activities Committees proceedings. For one thing, the movie focused on a highly controversial topic – labor relations – in its story of Chicano workers in a New Mexico zinc mine. When Anglo workers are given higher wages and safer conditions, the Chicanos go on strike to receive the same treatment. The film follows not just their strike but how the workers’ wives become involved as well.

The project started with director Herbert J. Biberman who was a member of the Hollywood Ten and had served 6 months in jail for being an uncooperative witness. Blacklisted in Hollywood, Biberman joined forces with producer Paul Jarrico, another film industry expatriate, to create a production company where those on the blacklist could have a chance to work. Co-writer Michael Wilson was among the artists who signed on. Wilson, whose previous credits had included A Place in the Sun (1951), was like many other blacklisted writers who found that they could continue writing, but were not given screen credit for their work. In fact, Wilsons writing credits for Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) (not to mention a Best Writing Oscar for the second film) were awarded posthumously as late as 1995.

With the country in the midst of right-wing McCarthyism, the subject of Salt of the Earth didn’t help matters any. Based on an actual New Mexico mineworkers strike, the docudrama depicts measures taken by a Hispanic union to improve conditions for its workers. Many of the actors were non-professionals who were real life participants in the strike. Two exceptions included Will Geer, who would go on to play Grandpa on the TV series “The Waltons” (Geer himself was blacklisted at the time Salt of the Earth was made) and, Mexican actress Rosaura Revueltas, who was mysteriously deported during the making of the film on a minor passport violation. (The movie had to be completed with a double.)

Co-produced with the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, who had been ejected from the CIO for alleged communist leanings, Salt of the Earth would be the only film made by Biberman and Jarrico’s company. The opposition was too great. Residents of the New Mexico towns while the movie was filmed made life miserable for them, with vigilantes starting fights and merchants who wouldn’t do business with them. State police finally had to be called in to allow the filming to be completed. Even then RKO chief Howard Hughes jumped on the bandwagon against the movie, with a plan to stop its processing and distribution. After eight labs refused to process the film, Biberman finally had to submit the reels under the title “Vaya Con Dios” to even get a print made.

Salt of the Earth
 finally opened in March 1954 in thirteen theatres. Variety called it “a good, highly dramatic and emotion-charged piece of work” but also noted that “its chances as box office entertainment is practically nil.” And in fact it received very few showings in the U.S., though it eventually gained a reputation in Europe before being rediscovered in America in the sixties in film societies and repertory cinemas. The film’s re-emergence even prompted director Biberman to write a book about the making of Salt of the Earth. From today’s perspective, Biberman’s film no longer seems to deserve its reputation as an extreme leftist propaganda film. Instead, it provides a surprisingly realistic look at the inequalities mining workers faced, not to mention a behind-the-scenes history lesson on the politics of the time.



Sunday December 18           Slavery By Another Name  2012  90 min.

Digging into a chapter in the African-American history that has been hidden, Sam Pollard’s Slavery By Another Name shows that Emancipation didn’t quite take full effect until World War II.

With slaves freed at the end of the Civil War, Southern whites had at least two big problems: Businessmen used to a vast pool of unpaid labor faced plummeting profits, while poor whites, who had never owned slaves, viewed blacks as unwelcome competition for work. Similar to today, imprisonment soon became a vehicle for de facto slavery, allowing blacks imprisoned for everything from murder to the theft of a pig to be leased out to coal mines and anyone else in need of workers. To keep the supply of prison labor steady, misdemeanors were turned into felonies and nebulous crimes like vagrancy became an excuse to lock up just about anyone.

Perversely, this “Convict Leasing” could be worse than slavery: While a slaveowner had made a long-term investment and had an interest in his slave’s health, a mining company could literally work someone to death, knowing another prisoner could be sent to replace him. Blacks who avoided prison might still get ensnared in “peonage” schemes, in which debtors (whose debts might not even be legitimate) were forced into labor to pay what they owed.

We hear details of these and other outrages from scholars, in letters written by inmates and their families, and, poignantly, from descendants of those who used convict labor — two white women who had been raised to think of their forebears as “self-made men” before discovering how their fortunes were actually made.


Sponsors: Loyola University Department of Sociology,  Chicago ALBA Solidarity Committee
For more information:  stansfieldsmith100@gmail.com,  Stan Smith 773-322-3168


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