Blue-collar cinema 

If you’re like much of Missoula, you’re familiar with the increasing pinch all the way from the gas pump to the video store. The ever-present reality of hard times not just around the corner, but existing here among us, underscores the third annual Labor Film Festival, dubbed “Working and Still Poor.”

Labor’s contribution, one that’s often overlooked and undervalued, is critical to the U.S. economy. As the history of the labor movement amply demonstrates, organization provides opportunity, and the focus of this festival is upon building coalition and strength among working people and families.

The screenings begin Friday evening with In Debt We Trust, an in-your-face analysis of our doomed national love affair with the credit card. Directed by self-proclaimed “News Dissector” Danny Schecter—he previously examined media war-drumming in WMD: Weapons of Mass Distraction—In Debt features commentary from returning Iraq War vets, ex-credit card executives, college students and Hurricane Katrina survivors to paint a startling picture of predatory lending practices that consolidate economic power in the wallets of big loaners.

Buyer Be Fair: The Promise of Product Certification screens next and offers a look at ways in which market forces can be used to create economic and social justice. Before your next cardboard-cuffed cappuccino, explore the background and effectiveness of fair trade coffee and Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood programs.

The first evening’s program concludes with Morristown: In the Air and Sun, which tells the tale of a remarkable Tennessee community: In an atmosphere primed for accusation, bigotry and even violence, American workers came together with their immigrant counterparts to organize a union for all.

Saturday evening’s program comprises two films, the first of which, The Motherhood Manifesto, describes ways in which motherhood in America is pitted against personal health and career prospects. And finally, Bread and Roses, directed by Ken Loach, is a dramatic presentation of the courage and costs involved when two Latina sisters move to unionize Los Angeles janitorial workers.

In all, the festival offers the opportunity to live the common union strike slogan, “Sit down and watch your pay go up.”

The Labor Film Festival runs Friday and Saturday at the Roxy Theater at 6:30 PM.
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