Wednesday, March 13, 2013

283. Salt of the Earth (1954)

Running Time: 92 minutes
Directed By: Herbert J. Biberman
Written By: Michael Biberman, Michael Wilson
Main Cast: Juan Chacon, Rosaura Revueltas, Will Greer, Henrietta Williams, Ernesto Velazquez
Click here to view the trailer


So this one has been sitting on my desk for close to a month, from Netflix, because for some reason I didn't think I was going to like it. When I finally bit the bullet and popped it into the DVD player, I found that it wasn't as bad as I had it pegged to be.

The film is a total propaganda film, made in the United States and tells of a group of Latino miners who go on strike when their denied safe working conditions and basic rights, rebelling against their Anglo bosses. The main character is Ramon Quintero (Chacon), the ring leader of the strike and (one of) the voices for his peers. His wife, Esperanza (Revueltas) is the narrator of the film and also one of the main characters. When the men start picketing, the women support them, most of whom are their wives. Things are pretty hunky-dory for a while. Despite the fact that the men are on strike, fighting for their rights and safety, the brotherhood of the group brings the community together and the fact that they're having to struggle together, only serves to draw them closer. When an act is passed that prohibits the miners from continuing their strike, the women step up to the plate and demand to take their places on the picket line. The movie kind of switches to a struggle between Anglo and Latino to a struggle between men and women, as the women wish to prove that their capable enough to fight for their rights, just as much as the men are.

Sure, this wasn't fabulous movie making, by any means. However, it proved to be an okay way to spend ninety minutes and I was surprised when I realized that a propaganda film was actually going to try and tell me a story, rather than just preach it's message. Sure, there's a lot of political and racial themes in the movie and the film is obviously being made to prove a point, rather than to impress cinematically, but it kept this viewer occupied nicely.  I would say that there were times when the mixing of sending a message and telling a story didn't quite work flawlessly, but for the most part, being told a story was a nice change of pace for a propaganda film. I thought the actors, even the non-professional cast, did a fine job and I also realize that this film probably has strong meaning for a lot of people. For me, despite the fact that it was "okay", it wasn't that meaningful to me and I was more concerned with getting through it without being bored, than anything. Let's just say that it got me from Point A to Point B, but not in the most flattering of ways.

This movie also made me realize that my likes and dislikes are very predictable. I'm not sure I'll ever enjoy a propaganda film, nor am I sure that I'll ever enjoy an experimental piece. I just don't think those types of movies are EVER going to appeal to me. I'm an open-minded person and like always, I'll keep my eyes and ears open when watching them, but I don't think they're ever going to fall into my comfort zone. I like being told fictional stories and that's always going to be the reason I started this journey. If I ever do find a great propaganda (or experimental) film, then I'll be ecstatic, because it'll mean that my tastes are continuing to change and I'm continuing to grow as a movie watcher. But, really, are propaganda films really made to be good? Or are they simply made to send a message? Is "Salt of the Earth" in THE BOOK because it's a great, landmark piece of movie making, or is it in there because of the fact that it was banned in the United States and because it was such a controversial piece? I'd assume the latter is true and if that's the case, then I think even the writers of THE BOOK would agree that it shouldn't have been included in a book of "must see" films.

RATING: 5/10  However, it got me through without me wanting to gouge my eyes out, which is more than I can ask for, especially for a film that I was really dreading.


March 13, 2013  10:40pm

1 comment:

  1. more interesting than enjoyable.. or rather entertaining. Well worth watching for the novelty value of a piece of left wing polemic from the USA... But as with all those highly worthy but sledgehammer Soviet era films... becomes a duty rather than a pleasure.


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