The mining industry dates back centuries. It has had and will continue to have a significant role in shaping the modern and future world. Here we take a look at ten films focused on the mining industry and while some of the films may take on a tragic or dark tale, it is important to remember that these stories however, dark they may be, are impossible to ignore. These stories played a hugely important part in bringing forward a stronger, safer and environmentally and economically sound mining industry that we find ourselves within today and for that reason they should be celebrated
1: Harlan County, USA
Harlan County, USA is an Oscar-winning documentary film released in 1976. It shows the true story of the ‘Brookside Strike’, where 180 coal miners and their wives went on strike against Eastover Coal Company’s Brookside Mine and Prep Plant in Harlan County, southeast Kentucky in 1973. The film was directed and produced by Barbara Kopple, who spent years documenting the families featured in the film as they planned to go on strike for safer working conditions and fairer pay.
2: Salt of the Earth
Salt of the Earth is an American drama film released in 1954, based on the 1951 strike against the Empire Zinc Company in Grant County, New Mexico. In the film, the company is called ‘Delaware Zinc’ and is set in ‘Zinctown, New Mexico’. The film shows how the miners, the company and the police react during the strike.
3: North Country
North Country is an American drama film directed by Niki Caro, released in 2005. It is based on the 2002 book ‘Class Action: The Story of Lois Jenson and the Landmark Case That Changed Sexual Harassment Law’ by Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler. The film is based around Josey Aimes, who goes to work at a local iron mine, where she and the other female workers are subjected to constant sexual harassment by their male co-workers. When the company refuses to address the issue, Josey files a lawsuit against them, and the films ends with the mining company paying the women workers for their suffering and establishing a sexual harassment policy.
4: The Wages of Fear
The Wages of Fear is a French drama film released in 1953 and directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot. It is based on the 1950 French novel ‘Le salaire de la peur’. The story is set in an isolated town named Las Piedras, where one of the only means of employment is the American corporation, Southern Oil Company, who own the oil fields that surrounds the town. The film is mainly based around four men who all die when they are sent to extinguish a fire which has started on one of the oil fields.
5: Paint Your Wagon
Paint Your Wagon is a 1969 Western musical film, adapted from the 1951 musical Paint Your Wagon and was directed by Joshua Logan. The film is set in a mining camp in California during the Gold Rush and is based around the lives of the miners who live there.
6: The Miners Hymn
The Miners Hymn is a silent documentary based around the coal mining communities in North East England. The film shows the hardship of pit work, the role of Trade Unions in mining and the effect of automation on miners’ working environment by using rarely seen footage from the British Film Institute and the BBC. It also features a musical piece from Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson.
7: Zorba the Greek
Zorba the Greek is a British-Greek drama film released in 1964 and directed by Michael Cacoyannis. It is based around two men as they try to reopen a lignite mine based in a rural village in Crete. The film is 142 minutes long and has been released in both English and Greek. It earned $23.5 million at the box office.
Matewan is an American drama film directed by John Sayles and was released August 28th, 1987. The film dramatizes the events of the Battle of Matewan, a coal miners’ strike in 1920 in Matewan, West Virginia. The strike happens when Stone Mountain Coal Company announces cuts to the pay miners will receive after the miners organise into a labour union.
9: There will be blood
There Will Be Blood is an American historical drama film released in 2007, which tells the story of a miner who falls and breaks his leg, leading him to discover oil and open his own drilling company. The film is widely regarded as one of the best films of the 2000’s and in 2016 it was voted the third best film of the 21st century, picked by 177 film critics around the world.
10: Powaqqatsi: Life in Transformation
Powaqqatsi is a 1988 American documentary film directed by Godfrey Reggio and is the sequel to Koyaanisqatsi. It is the second film in the Qatsi trilogy. The film has no dialogue, and documents the lives of men from Serra Pelada, a gold mine in Brazil. The film was made to show the conflict in third world countries between traditional ways of life and new ways of life introduced with industrialisation.