Director: John Sayles Run Time: 132 min. Release Year: 1987
Starring: Chris Cooper, David Strathairn, James Earl Jones, Mary McDonnell, Will Oldham
Filmed in the coal country of West Virginia, “Matewan” celebrates labor organizing in the context of a 1920s work stoppage. Union organizer, Joe Kenehan, a scab named “Few Clothes” Johnson and a sympathetic mayor and police chief heroically fight the power represented by a coal company and Matewan’s vested interests so that justice and workers’ rights need not take a back seat to squalid working conditions, exploitation and the bottom line.
“A stirring masterpiece from the perpetually underrated John Sayles. Both a classic western in its depiction of a community rising to its own defence against sinister forces within and without, and a timeless encapsulation of America itself, as a volatile melting-pot slowly overcoming racial prejudice, bureaucratic deceit and capitalist greed to foster a better future. What a legendary ensemble of character actors!” – Zachary T, mubi