query: DVDs for community organizing

Discussion list for COMM-ORG colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Tue Oct 30 09:35:22 CDT 2007

[ed: thanks to Sekou, Bonnie, Larry, David, and Peter for replying to 
Susan's query.]

From: sfran10121 at aol.com

The LA Labor/Community Strategy Center has a documentary on the bus 
riders union that offers a good look at transit organizing. CAAAV: 
Organizing Asian Communities has a film called "Eating Welfare" that 
looks at organizing around welfare rights and immigrant rights. Another 
short film is "A Prison in the Fields" which looks at organizing against 
the building of a prison in California's Central Valley. I would also 
recommend a movie called "Freedom Song" about SNCC's organizing in 
Mississippi. Finally, you may want to look at the We Were Warriors 
documentaries, which focus on non-violence organizing and movements, and 
has a 30 minute segment on the Nashville student sit-in movement.


Sekou Franklin
Nashville, Tennessee
Department of Political Science (Middle Tennessee State U.)


"Bonnie Bazata" <bbazata at saintmarys.edu>
Mon, 29 Oct 2007 09:46:27 -0400
colist at comm-org.wisc.edu

I really like the films of Appalshop that focus on the Appalachian
area, but also put bigger issues in a local context.
One film I use a lot with students is called "Stranger with a Camera"
by Elizabeth Barret. It is a true story about the murder of a
Canadian Broadcast Corp. TV journalist, but it frames the whole
discussion of who should speak for others, how we should engage with
communities, etc. in a very compelling way.


Bonnie Bazata
Associate Director
Center for Women's InterCultural Leadership
#7 Havican Hall
Saint Marys College
Notre Dame, IN 46556
(574) 284-4058
fax: (574) 284-4141
bbazata at saintmarys.edu


From: "Larry Bresler" <lbresler at organizeohio.org>

A recent DVD that has come out is “Living Broke in Boom Times, Lessons 
from the Movement to End Poverty.” It is a 74 minute film that condenses 
three documentaries from 1990-2000: “Takeover” (homeless organizing to 
take over empty houses) , “Poverty Outlaw” (birth of the Kensington 
Welfare Rights Union) & “Outriders (a nationwide bus trip of poor and 
homeless families who document the effects of welfare reform),” into one 
film with wrap around commentaries around each section. If you are using 
it in a classroom, it can be shown together or as segments. To rent it 
or purchase it, go to www.skylightpictures.com

Larry Bresler

Organize! Ohio

3616 Superior Ave., Bldg 31

Cleveland, OH 44114

(216) 431-6070

lbresler at organizeohio.org


David Desiderato <ddesiderato at neaction.org>
Mon, 29 Oct 2007 11:52:09 -0400
colist at comm-org.wisc.edu

Hi Randy,

A couple of others not yet mentioned that we have used in organizing 
trainings (i just rejoined colist, so if these were mentioned earlier no 
need to repeat):

1. Salt of the Earth
1954 classic -- New Mexico mine strike is losing until women step into 
the picket line and other roles. Very appropriate today for gender, 
race, immigration, and police-state themes.
Brief reviews at: 
At Northeast Action we've shown the film in organizing trainings and 
then used questions for discussion. We also have a short background 
piece on the film development process and on the real actors and 
actresses. It was written by Janice Fine based on her interview in the 
late 1990's with Ellen Baker, a doctoral student writing a dissertation 
on “Race and Gender in the Making of Salt of the Earth.” Drop me a line 
for a copy -- ddesiderato at neaction.org

2. The Power of One
"The power of one person to do something. Anything. "
1 min 42 seconds
Very powerful evocative introduction for any group, especially brand-new 
produced by One Earth
you can see it on YouTube at:

3. We also use the Montgomery Bus Boycott to illustrate leadership, 
infrastructure-building, power, hope, and worldview. For this we have 
used a 20 minute video segment from the Eyes on the Prize series 
produced by Blackside, with discussion questions. But more recently we 
have used readings (each person reads a paragraph) from Taylor Branch's 
extraordinary work Parting the Waters (for example in trainings for 
health reform leaders to connect the current struggle for health care 
for all to ongoing struggles for justice). It's excruciating to cut 
sections so that the reading takes no more than 25-30 minutes -- but the 
result is incredibly powerful, and people feel part of history. Marshall 
Ganz has posted this segment on the Practicing Democracy website, near 
the bottom of the page, at 
http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/organizing/tools/toolshome.shtml. But the 
whole of Branch's book, and its 2 sequels Pillar of Fire and At Canaan's 
Edge, are treasures for organizers.


David Desiderato ~ Field Director ~ Northeast Action ~ 
DDesiderato at NEAction.Org
NEW ADDRESS: 30 Arbor St., Ste 6N, Hartford CT 06106 ~ 860-231-2410 ~ 
"It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, 
tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds." Samuel Adams


"Peter Dreier" <dreier at oxy.edu>
Sat, 27 Oct 2007 10:47:12 -0700
<colist at comm-org.wisc.edu>

Films about union organizing are often useful for teaching about community
organizing, too. Tom Zaniello's book, Working Stiffs, Union Maids, Reds, and
Riffraff: An Expanded Guide to Films About Labor (ILR Press Books) is an
indispensible resource, with long descriptions of hundreds of films. In
addition, LABOR HISTORY had a great article a decade ago on using films for
teaching labor history, with a long list of both documentaries and dramatic
films: http://www.oah.org/pubs/magazine/labor/glass.pdf. Here are some other
websites with films about labor and unions:

I sponsor a weekly film series for my course "Movements for Social Justice"
and show some other films for my "Organizing" course. Here are some of the
films I use in these courses:

"Salt of the Earth" - Probably the best film to use to teach about
organizing in terms of the dynamics of class, family, gender, race, and
consciousness-raising. The history of the film is as interesting as the film
itself; there are several books published about how the film was made
against incredible obstacles during the McCarthy era. There are also several
films about the making of the movie, including "A Crime to Fit the
Punishment" (a documentary) and "One of the Hollywood Ten" (an HBO film)

"The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinsky & His Legacy" (45 min - Documentary
about legendary community organizer Saul Alinsky, who led the movement to
empower disenfranchised communities through collective action)

"One Day Longer" (45 min - Recounts America's longest running strike by
workers of the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas).

"Norma Rae" -- one of the best Hollywood films about union organizing and
the dynamics between black and white workers, between oragnizers and
workers, and between management and workers.

"The Times of Harvey Milk" (documentary on the rise of gay politics in San
Francisco) - Monday, April 9

“The Killing Floor” (feature film about the 1919 Chicago race riots, against
the backdrop of union organizing in the stockyards, and relationships of
black and white workers)

"City of Hope" (a feature film, directed by John Sayles, about urban
politics and gentrification in a NJ city, that describes the tension between
progressive elected officials and community groups)

"Brother Outsider" - a documentary about organizer/activist/pacifist Bayard

"With Babies and Banners" - documentary about the role women played in the
UAW during the Depression, focusing on the 1937 Flint sit-down strike

"Boom" - Documentary that looks at the relationship between the dot-com boom
and community displacement and gentrification in the San Francisco Bay Area
in particular the Mission District. Examines how developers have come in and
evicted long term tenants for short term investments. Includes interviews
with senior citizens and families that have been evicted, dot-com workers,
developers, the Mayor, and the community that challenged their new economic
order. Incudes the history of the Mission District in San Francisco

"Holding Ground" - Through the voices of committed residents, activists and
city officials, this documentary shows how a Boston community, the Dudley
Street Neighborhood, was able to create and carry out its own agenda for

"Building Hope" - a one-hour documentary, produced by Pratt Institute, about
the history of CDCs, including their origins in the community organizing
movement of the 1960s

"Matewan" - A John Sayles film starring Chris Cooper, James Earl Jones, Mary
McDonnell, Will Oldham. A labor leader seeking to organize the workers of a
company town sets off a powderkeg of racial hostility, corruption and
betrayal in this tale of the bitter clash between unionist miners and the
tyrannical coal company owners in West Virginia in the 1920's. Good focus on
racial and ethnic tensions among workers. Based on a true story.

"Homes and Hands" -- Document showing how communities nationwide are
organizing to gain control of their local land and resources, using the
community land trust model to create a stock of permanently affordable

"Our land too:the legacy of the southern Tenant Farmers Union" - documentary
that chronicles the Southern Tenant Farmers' Union, the first interracial
social and labor movement in the South, begun in 1934. Examines the role the
union played in the lives of poor black and white sharecroppers and tenant

"Chavez Ravine" - This documentary captures how a community was betrayed by
greed, political hypocrisy, and good intentions gone astray. Don Normark's
haunting photographs evoke a lost Mexican-American village in the heart of
downtown LA, razed in the 1950's to build an enormous low-income housing
project. Instead, the federally purchased land was used for Dodger Stadium

"La Ciudad/The City" - "With ... intensive collaboration with the New York
Latino immigrant community over a five-year period, The City [La Ciudad]
weaves a rich narrative tapestry of present day immigrant life. The film's
four unforgettable stories center on a group of day-laborers scavenging for
bricks; two teenagers from the same hometown who meet in the projects and
fall in love; a homeless father who tries to enroll his daughter in school;
and a garment worker who seeks justice in the sweatshops.

"Oh Freedom After While" - Documentary. In January 1939, Missouri Bootheel
sharecroppers--black and white--staged a dramatic roadside protest to
protest unjust treatment by local plantation owners. Their demonstration
spurred the U.S. government to develop new housing for displaced
sharecroppers. Some demonstrators also established a remarkable farming
community--and learned how to make lasting change in their lives

"Watsonville on Strike" - Relates events of strike of Mexican American
frozen food workers in Watsonville, Calif. commencing September, 1985,
lasting 18 months

"The Lemon Grove Incident" - Focusing on one of the earliest school
desegregation cases, uses dramatizations, archival footage, and
recollections of witnesses to examine the response of the Mexican-American
community in Lemon Grove, Calif., to a 1930 school board attempt to create a
segregated Mexican school in the district

- "The Organizer" (In this exciting dramatic film, Mastrioianni portrays the
life of a labor organizer leading a textile strike in 19th century Italy.
Sober yet full of light touches, the film examines the role of an activist
and the difficult tension between personal ideals and political commitment.)

"The Long Walk Home" (Dramatic Hollywood film about the famous Montgomery
Bus Boycott. Academy Award winner Whoopi Goldberg is Odessa Cotter, a
quietly dignified woman, who works as a housekeeper for Miriam Thompson
(Academy Award winner Sissy Spacek). When Odessa honors the 1955 Montgomery,
Alabama, bus boycott by walking an exhausting nine miles to and from work,
Miriam offers her a ride. Defying both Miriam's racist husband (Dwight
Schultz) and the powerful White Citizen's Council, Miriam and Odessa put
their lives in danger for civil rights. Their shared experiences draw them
closer as a deep respect and lasting friendship forms. Together, in a
difficult world of black versus white, they manage to discover a common

"Where Do You Stand: Stories from an American Mill" (A new documentary film
about the rise and fall of an American town and the epic struggle of the
people who live there. In the process it tells the story of dramatic changes
in labor and demographics, in the nature of corporations, the rise of
multinationals, and changes in the American South in the post-industrial
age. On June 23, 1999, after a quarter century of struggle, textile workers
in Kannapolis, North Carolina won the single largest industrial union
victory in the history of the South, a region long known as a bastion of
anti-union sentiment. This film traces the story of that epic and often
bitter struggle, and examines the efforts of workers to cope with a rapidly
changing social and economic climate. Told primarily through the voices of
those active in the numerous attempts to organize the union, the film offers
an intimate and compelling portrait of American workers as they face the
myriad challenges of the post-industrial age.)

"Wellstone" (A documentary about the life of Paul Wellstone, the grassroots
activist and radical who was elected twice to the U.S. Senate from Minnesota
and was about to be elected again when he was killed in an airplane crash in
October 2002. In "Wellstone," we see him teaching political science at
Carleton College, organizing farmers and workers, and running for United
States Senate in an uphill campaign against a powerful and well-funded
incumbent. One theme of the film is the Wellstones' ability to connect with
regular people despite reaching the pinnacle of politicall power. Another
theme is his willingness to take unpopular positions. In 2002, for example,
faced with a tough election-year challenge, he voted against a resolution
authorizing war with Iraq. Wellstone combined the roles of organizer and
politician, a rare combination.)

Jeannette Rankin: The Woman Who
Voted No" (In 1916, Montana sent Jeannette Rankin to Congress, making her
the first women ever elected to national office. She came to national
attention when she voted against American entry into World War One. During
the l920s and l930s, she worked for several peace groups. Re-elected to
Congress in 1940, she again was faced with the declaration of war, and cast
the only opposing vote -- a choice which ended her political career. This
film chronicles her life as a peace activist and suffragist organizer.)

"A Philip Randolph: for Jobs and Justice" - a biopic about the great labor,
civil rights and socialist leader. A Hollwyood film, "10,000 men Named
George" describes the history of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters,
the first major African American labor union.

"Northern Lights" (The time is 1915. Big money interests -- the grain trade,
railroads and banks -- rule the grain-rich Midwest and Northern plans. This
dramatic film depicts the struggle of small farmers to improve their lives
through a political organization called the Non-Partisan League -- one of
the most successful, and little-known, chapters in American democracy.
"Northern Lights" won a critics' award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1979.)

"Debs and the American Movement" (This documentary depicts the life and
times of this union leader, spectacular orator, socialist agitator, and
four-time Presidential candidate. From the 1890s through the 1920s, American
workers struggled to improve working and living conditions in the factories,
mines and cities. It was an era of bloody strikes and brutal government
reaction to working people's struggle for dignity and a better life. The key
events are documented with newsreel footage, photographs, drawings and Debs'
own words from his speeches and writing.)

"The Triangle Fire" (This documents one of the most important events in
American labor history. On March 25, 1911, a fire at the Triangle Waist
Company in New York City claimed the lives of 146 young immigrant workers,
one of the worst disasters since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
“The Triangle Fire,” part of the PBS documentary on New York City, describes
this incident and the movement it inspired to reform conditions in the
factories and slums.)

"Hull House: The House that Jane Built" (This documentary depicts the life
and times of Jane Addams. In 1889, pioneer social worker and activist Jane
Addams opened Hull House to aid the poor, largely immigrants in Chicago's
slums. Joined by other progressive young women, Addams turned Hull House
into a major center for social reform. Addams was at the forefront of peace,
women's rights, slum reform, union activism, immigrant rights, and civil
rights -- and won a Nobel Peace Prize for her effort. "Hull House," a
docudrama, featuring Ellen Burstyn, tells their remarkable story.)

"One Woman, One Vote" (This film documents the 72-year struggle for women's
suffrage which culminated in the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in
1920. It illuminates the alliances, infighting, betrayals and defeats that
paved the way for victory in the battle for women's right to vote.
Historical footage is enhanced with vocal performances, and interviews with
historians provide the viewer with both current and historical

"Sit Down and Fight" (The Depression era spawned a new wave of labor
activism, especially among industrial workers in America's factories. "Sit
Down and Fight" chronicles the rise of the United Auto Workers union and its
leader, Walter Reuther. It includes interviews, archival footage, and still
photographs of the UAW's organizing efforts, including the famous "sit-down"
strike -- a tactic later adopted by the civil rights movement.

"We Have a Plan" (Hollywood glamour, political intrigue and socialism
combine in one of the Depression decade's most fascinating campaign sagas.
In 1934, world-famous author and Socialist Upton Sinclair ran for governor
of California, promising to "End Poverty in California." After Sinclair won
the Democratic primary, the most powerful forces in California -- including
the film industry and the LA Times -- joined to defeat him in the November
elections. In doing so, they invented the modern media campaign. Sinclair's
efforts had a lasting impact on the New Deal and California politics.)

"Red Nightmare" (Made by Warner Brothers at the height of the McCarthy
period (l953), "Red Nightmare" asks what would happen if the Communists
infiltrated a typically small town in the U.S.? Narrated by Jack Webb (of
TV's "Dragnet" fame), the film illustrates the kind of Cold War propaganda
that was widespread during that era.)

"Hollywood on Trial" (Chronicles the events in America that led to the
imprisonment of ten Hollywood luminaries -- writers and directors -- for
supposedly subversive activities. Director John Huston narrates the archival
clips that spotlight Tinseltown from the 1930s to the creation of the House
Committee on Un-American Activities. Senators, led by the bombastic Joseph
McCarthy, angrily accused film writers and performers of having Communist
views. Many screen personalities stepped forward to tell the senators whom
they should target; few stood up for these beleaguered artists. The
"blacklisted" moviemakers -- dubbed the "Hollywood Ten" -- held fast to
their belief that the First Amendment would protect their creative
expression and political views. But they fell victim to the fear and anxiety
of the entertainment industry. "Hollywood on Trial" tells the story of how
America's movie industry suppressed dissent during the l940s, 50s and 60s.
It describes the writers, directors, actors, and others who fought back --
often at the risk of their careers. This documentary features archival
footage of friendly and unfriendly witnesses who testified before HUAC, as
well as later interviews with those involved.)

"Freedom on My Mind" (Documentary of the civil rights movement and the
events surrounding the Mississippi Voter Registration Project of the early
1960's. Combines archival footage with contemporary interviews.)

"Berkeley in the Sixties" (A dramatic chronicle of Student Activism...The
Free Speech Movement. The New Left. The Anti-War Effort. Black Power. The
Origins of the Women's Movement. Community Empowerment. Berkeley was at
the center of these and other struggles for social justice. This PBS
documentary, nominated for an Oscar, tells the story of the activists who
made history.)

"The Times of Harvey Milk" (Winner of the 1984 Academy Award for Best
Documentary, "The Times of Harvey Milk" vividly illustrates the power of the
gay community in San Francisco during the l970s. Milk was one of the gay
movement's key leaders, rising to a seat on the city's Board of Supervisors
until he was assassinated in 1978.)

"Willmar Eight" (An inspirational story of eight working women -- bank
employees in a small Minnesota town -- who suddenly found themselves in the
forefront of the fight for working women's rights. In 1977, they form a
union and start the first bank strike in Minnesota history, lasting through
two brutal winters. The film describes their union efforts, how they grow as
individuals, and how the townspeople respond to them.)

"Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Struggle" (This
documentary traces the remarkable contributions of Cesar Chávez and others
involved in this epic struggle for improve working and living conditions for
farmworkers. Many of these things are now taken for granted, such as
getting fresh water and public toilets in the fields, and larger reforms
like ensuring fair labor practices and ending the bracero program. The film
follows the first successful organizing drive of farm workers in the United
States, while recounting the many failed and dramatic attempts to unionize
that led up to this victory.)

"With God on Our Side: George W. Bush and the Rise of the Religious Right"
(Relates George Bush's story in evangelical conservatives' own words.
Incorporating historical detail and interviews with religious conservatives,
this film depicts the complex ways religion and politics mingle in American

"Bread and Roses" (Ken Loach directs this gripping drama about the plight of
seemingly invisible office janitors in contemporary Los Angeles who often
earn as little as $6 a day without benefits. It is the story of both their
daily lives and their efforts to unionize to challenge the low wages and
arbitrary treatment they encounter at work. "Give us bread but give us
roses" is the refrain of an old union organizers' song, calling for not only
a living wage but also respect for those who did some of society's most
dangerous work. This film, which was screened in competition at the 2000
Cannes Film Festival, is remarkable for its prescience -- it was shown a
month after a massive janitor's strike ground L.A.'s business community to a

Peter Dreier
E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics
Director, Urban & Environmental Policy Program
Occidental College
1600 Campus Road
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Phone: (323) 259-2913
FAX: (323) 259-2734

"The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great
moral crises
maintain their neutrality" -- Dante

Discussion list for COMM-ORG wrote:
> --------
> This is a COMM-ORG 'colist' message.
> All replies to this message come to COMM-ORG only.
> --------
> [ed:  Please feel welcomed to copy COMM-ORG with responses to Susan's 
> query. A bit from me below.]
> From: SusanGSMcGee at aol.com
> Folks, when teaching c.o., or when doing organizing in the community, 
> what are the best dvds? I am particularly looking for dvds that portray 
> community organizing, that debunk the idea that there are one or two 
> superpowers in charge, and that make the point that ordinary people 
> acting together can make change.
> Susan
> [ed:  the "films" section of the COMM-ORG Multimedia page, 
> http://comm-org.wisc.edu/multimed.htm, may be of assistance.]
> _______________________________________________
> Colist maillist  - send messages to Colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
> To change your subscription, go to http://comm-org.wisc.edu/mailman/listinfo/colist
> All messages are archived at http://comm-org.wisc.edu/pipermail/colist/
> Please contact original message authors to request permission to forward messages. 

More information about the Colist mailing list