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Garner: ‘9 to 5’ opens Labor Film Festival

by Jack Garner for the Democrat & Chronicle

Happy Labor Day weekend! And, with perfect timing, the Rochester Labor Council and the George Eastman House have organized a special 25th anniversary version of their annual Rochester Labor Film Series.

Happy Labor Day weekend! And, with perfect timing, the Rochester Labor Council and the George Eastman House have organized a special 25th anniversary version of their annual Rochester Labor Film Series.

What makes it special? It’s a greatest-hits selection of labor films — the best and most popular of the 250 movies screened at the fest over the past 24 years. The result: films from Salt of the Earth to Glengarry Glen Ross. The festival opens Friday with the popular women-in-the-workplace comedy, Nine to Five, and continues at the Dryden Theatre once or twice a week through Nov. 2.

As it is with any best-of gathering, it is subjective, and you may miss a personal favorite. I, for example, love John Sayles movies, especially Matewan. But it is hard to argue with most of the choices in the 2014 festival.

For more information, go to rochesterlabor.org/filmseries.html.

Here are the films:

Nine to Five, 8 p.m. Friday. This polished Hollywood comedy with Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton as three office workers who get revenge against a male chauvinist boss (Dabney Coleman) is a very funny and very pointed comedy, and Dolly sings a great title song.

Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price, 2 p.m. next Sunday. Robert Greenwald presents his landmark study of the struggles of workers and their families in the workforce of the retail giant.

Workingman’s Death, 8 p.m. Sept. 12. This is a powerful study of the emotional and physical cost of difficult manual labor among miners, shipbuilders and slaughterhouse workers. The 2005 film has much of the same impact as the famed worker portraits by Sebastiano Salgado.

Modern Times, 8 p.m. Sept. 21. This classic Charlie Chaplin comic satire is about the negative effects of mechanization and industrialization on Chaplin’s beloved Little Tramp. Paulette Goddard co-stars in the largely silent 1936 film.

The Killing Floor, 8 p.m. Sept. 26. This classic 1984 film inspired the creation of the Labor Film Festival. The award-winning film portrays efforts of Chicago meatpacking workers to unionize in the years before and after World War I.

The Organizer, 8 p.m. Oct. 3. This great Italian film from that nation’s fertile 1960s stars the great Marcello Mastroianni as a socialist labor organizer in Turin at the turn of the last century. Despite its serious themes, it’s a wonderful comedy.

The Salt of the Earth, 2 p.m. Oct. 5. A fabled film about Mexican-American mine workers’ efforts to organize, it was created in large part by a talented crew of blacklisted filmmakers of the ’40s and often billed as a film “of labor, by labor, and for labor.”

Made in Dagenham, 8 p.m. Oct. 10. A more recent, and wonderfully entertaining, British story of women in a Ford factory who organize for equal pay, the cast includes Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins, and the late, great Bob Hoskins.

Live Nude Girls Unite, 8 p.m. Oct. 17. This is a labor film you don’t see every day, focusing on efforts of San Francisco area strippers to form the first union of exotic dancers.

Wages of Fear, 2 p.m. Oct. 26. This is one of the true masterpieces in the festival. The riveting French thriller by Henri Clouzot stars the wonderful Yves Montand as the leader of a small group of ne’er-do-wells in a Latin American banana republic, hired to drive high explosive nitro-glycerin in two trucks through god-awful jungle terrain, where the slightest bump could blow them sky high. This is one of the great thrillers, and notto be missed.

Trash Dance, 8 p.m. Nov. 1. An unusual film that follows choreographer Allison Orr, as she studies the work habits and rhythms of trash collectors to help her create a new dance.

Glengarry Glen Ross, 2 p.m. Nov. 2. This is the potent film version of David Mamet’s famous play about the ruthlessness and greed of the real estate trade, circa 1980, and the abuse of (and by) agents in the field. The fabulous ensemble includes Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris, Al Pacino, and Alec Baldwin.

DIRECTOR APPEARANCE. The busy Dryden Theatre also is hosting a world-class filmmaker this week. Dutch Australian director Rolf De Heer will appear for a post-screening discussion after the 8 p.m. Wednesday screening of The Tracker.

The Tracker is a potent drama from 2002, set against the backdrop of Aboriginal genocide in Australia in the early 20th Century.

A leading figure in Australian cinema, the Dutch-born De Heer has made 14 features, most notably his 1993 masterpiece Bad Boy Bubby.