Susan Chumsky
December 11, 1992 AT 05:00 AM EST

American Dream

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
Unrated
director
Barbara Kopple
genre
Documentary

We gave it an A

Barbara Kopple, director of the 1976 coal-miner documentary Harlan County, U.S.A., returns to the union fold with this searing, blow-by-blow account of the 1985 Hormel meat packers’ strike in Austin, Minn. American Dream shuns oversimplified characterizations of heroes and villains, placing less emphasis on the conflict between labor and management than on dissension among factions within the union itself: those who persist in fighting for a just cause against those who come to realize that their just cause is doomed. Winner of the 1991 Academy Award for Best Documentary, this clear-eyed, relentlessly depressing portrait prompts questions that go beyond this one strike to the very viability of the American dream. If this film leaves any room for hope, it’s in the salt-of-the-earth decency, courage, and thoughtfulness of the workers on both sides of this struggle. A

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