Salt of the Earth

Director Biberman, producer

Paul Jarrico

, writer

Michael Wilson

, composer

Sol Kaplan

and actor

Will Geer

were all blacklisted at the time, and this extraordinary film was a unique act of defiance. Production was subject to constant FBI harassment, the leading actress was repatriated to Mexico (shots of her final scenes were done surreptitiously), and projectionists refused to screen the finished film, which still looks incredibly modern. Financed by the American mineworkers union, it deals with a strike in the New Mexico community of Zinc Town, formerly San Marcos. While the Anglo workers enjoy reasonable living conditions, the Mexicans live without adequate sanitation in a form of apartheid. At pains not to feature traditional romantic leads (like Matewan or The Milagro Beanfield War), it focuses on two decidedly unglamorous people, a Mexican worker (Chacon) and his pregnant wife (Revueltas), who are victims of an economic trap, and whom America's post-war boom - symbolised by the gleaming cars that drive through the picket line - has passed by. As the strike for better conditions progresses, the women play an increasing role, overcoming the traditional macho ethos by doing both picket duty and time in jail (while the men, fed up with washing dishes, go off hunting). The film's targets multiply - workers' rights, racism, feminism - and for 1953 this is pretty amazing.

Release details

Duration: 94 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Herbert J Biberman
Screenwriter: Michael Wilson
Cast: Rosaura Revueltas
Juan Chacon
Will Geer
Mervin Williams
Frank Talavera
Clinton Jencks
Virginia Jencks

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