Salt of the Earth (1954)
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as Esperanza Quintero
as Antonio Morales
as Ramon Quintero
as Teresa Vidal
as Charley Vidal
as Consuelo Ruiz
as Sal Ruiz
as Luz Morales
as Sebastian Prieto
as Charley Vidal
as Ruth Barnes
as Frank Barnes
as Luis Quintero
as Estella Quintero
as Mrs. Salazar
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Critic Reviews for Salt of the Earth
Salt of the Earth is a good, highly dramatic and emotion-charged piece of work that tells its story straight. It is, however, a propaganda picture which belongs in union halls rather than theatres.
The hard-focus, realistic quality of the picture's photography and style completes its characterization as a calculated social document.
One of the most daring "social problem" works in American film history, this movie, created by blacklisted artists, also shows the limitations of making a working-class film within the context of American culture.
Kudos are in order for this extraordinary film for all it has to say that rings true about workers' rights, racism, and feminism.
Audience Reviews for Salt of the Earth
Salt of the Earth (Herbert J. Biberman, 1953) It occurred to me sometime after I had watched it that it would have been a great idea to co-review Salt of the Earth, Herbert Biberman's muckraking 1953 film about the Empire Zinc Mine strike in southwestern New Mexico, and Dreams of Dust, Laurent Salgues' 2006 drama about Nigerian immigrants who turn to gold mining in Burkina Faso to make a living. Unfortunately, by the time I came up with that idea, I had long completed my Dreams of Dust review, but if you've seen one of them, you would do yourself a service seeking the other one out. For two movies that couldn't be more different on a meta level, they work as a fantastic double-bill. Biberman's movie is a thinly-veiled portrait of the events surrounding the 1951 strike at a mine in Bayard, a town in southwestern New Mexico (now a Superfund site). Thanks to a combination of its location (Bayard sits very close to the Mexican border) and stinginess, Empire had a tendency to hire a large number of Latino workers. This is, of course, not a terrible thing, and you would imagine that in today's world the company would be crowing about its diversity. All well and good except that it got out that Empire were paying the Latino miners a fraction of what they were paying the gringos. This led to the Latino workers going on strike. The movie covers the lead-up to the strike more than the thing itself, though it does devote some time at the end to the actual strike. That was kind of a gutsy move in the fifties, and it works pretty well. Looking back on the movie seventy years later, it can be hard to separate the meta from the actual movie. There is a great deal of meta surrounding this picture. Most of the principals in front of the camera were non-actors (and, unthinkable in Hollywood at the time, most of the actors playing Mexicans were actual Mexicans), while four of the principals behind the camera were blacklisted. (So was the movie itself, the only film in American history to actually be blacklisted; ironically, it is also the only American film that was released theatrically in China between 1950 and 1979. It would not be shown theatrically in America until the mid-sixties.) All of which makes it great on trivia night, but is it good for movie night? It's not a bad little movie, to be sure, but I think the meta has caused it to be lionized maybe a little more than it should. The non-actors do a good job for non-actors, but Cidade de Deus this ain't. Will Geer, as a local sheriff tasked with quelling the natives, brings a touch of professionalism to the proceedings, and male lead Juan Chacôn really does rise to the occasion, but the two of them often have the unintentional effect of highlighting the amateurs around them. That said, that we're seventy years on also makes the film fit a little better. After all, we live in an age where any student filmmaker with a digital camcorder and a DVD-R burner can get a movie streaming on Netflix, so Salt of the Earth is a little more at home. Worth looking into if you're interested in the subject. ***
Should never have been banned, but audiences were probably not sophisticated enough not to riot or whatever, so who knows.
"If I can't dance, I don't want to be in your revolution" - Emma Goldman In "Salt of the Earth," Esperanza(Rosaura Revueltas), who is married to Ramon(Juan Chacon), a mine worker, has grave doubts about the future while she is pregnant with her third child. A lot of that comes from living in a house owned by the company with inadequate sanitation, and not even being able to afford a small luxury like a radio. And that's not to mention him spending a lot of nights out with the guys. It is not only the low pay that Ramon and his fellow workers are angry about(getting paid less than their Anglo counterparts adds insult to injury), it is the danger of the job as the men are forced into the dangerous position of having to work alone. When an accident does happen, gravely injuring a worker, that is the final straw, as a strike is called. With a cast of professional and amateur actors, "Salt of the Earth" is a rousing and detailed call to arms that was far ahead of its time in not only attacking the racism of the mine owners, as Hispanic culture was in danger of being written over, but also telling the story from a Hispanic point of view which is not exactly common even in this more enlightened day and age. What's even more exceptional is recognizing the roles that women have played in strikes(one of the characters in the movie should have been a lawyer), and not only in support positions, either, but on the front lines of the picket. In fact, Mother Jones(1837-1930) was a fearless union organizer in her time.