Harlan County, U.S.A. is in essence a straightforward cinema verite documentary about a coal miners’ strike in Kentucky. Director Barbara Kopple began the project in 1972 in Kentucky and was on hand to record the year-plus battle of coal miners at the Brookside Mine in Harlan to join the United Mine Workers.
There is much emphasis on the predictable elements which give the pic the impact of a carefully-plotted fiction feature.
Actual strike events are fleshed out with vintage film and stills of mining conditions over the years, of previous labor battles and of current living (and dying) conditions in the industry.
The stars of the film are the men and women of Harlan County, portrayed here not as patronized mountain folks but as human beings.
1976: Best Feature Documentary