Quick recap: A union group decides to go on strike against a zinc mining company in the early 50’s. The men striking face jail time, violence, scabs, and worst of all- women, who take over after the workers are barred from entering the picketing line. Women are the WORST, you guys. The WORST.
Fun (?) fact: During filming, immigration officials arrested the lead actress, Rosaura Revueltas. She was deported to Mexico and a double had to be put in place to finish the movie. She was labeled a communist and couldn’t find much work afterwards.
My thoughts: It’s really hard to go wrong with a movie that has the distinction of being the only movie ever blacklisted. On the other hand, being brainwashed with propaganda gets tiresome after awhile. Salt of the Earth was basically made as a big ‘screw you’ to the US government, after its director, producer and writer were blacklisted for being alleged Communist sympathizers. In retaliation to the charges, the men set out to make the most Communist film ever created, so that they might have a movie ‘to fit the crime for which they were accused’.
It would be really silly of me to waste time critiquing a film that is by all accounts, propaganda. It would be like me holding the Taco Bell Twitter account to some literary expectation, when all they are there to do is sell waffle tacos. I could really use a waffle taco, by the way. Back to Salt of the Earth, the acting is stiff in some scenes and over emotional in the others. The plot, while based on a true story, was overall unbelievable and silly. The union workers were painted as full of hope and blameless while the police and owner of the plant were the very definition of evil. But none of this matters as long as the message is understood.
My husband watched the movie with me and afterward we had a discussion.
A: I’m pro-union, but at some point, after a year, it would be time to find a new job.
Me: But if everyone gave up, nothing would ever get done! Companies could get away with murder! And anyway, the union pooled its resources and shared with each other so everyone was ok.
A: I think you just argued in favor of communism.
Me.: Oh my god. I’m a communist.
Ok, so it didn’t go exactly like that, but I do admit to falling for the message a little bit. So in that respect, Salt of the Earth was a wild success. And when I look into the history of this movie, the government agrees with me. They ordered a boycott of the film and it was virtually kept hidden for 10 years, until women got wind of it. Although this wasn’t the main message, the feminism viewpoint is for me, the most interesting part. Esperanza, the main character, is married to a union leader whom many people look up to. Yet, after all the protesting he does, goes home and treats his wife pretty badly. He forbids her to participate in the picket line, even though she was the one who got it to happen. At some point, when things gets bad, she gets involved and transforms into a strong character. Her husband is left at home to watch the kids and take over housework duties. By the end of the film, he realizes how amazing his wife is and is truly grateful for her strength. Propaganda aside, I can get behind that.
Final review: 3/5. An interesting part of history, but not so interesting to sit through it again. I’d also prefer not to be blacklisted by liking this film in any way.
Up next: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon