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April 01, 1993 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-04-01

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Page 6- The Michigan Daily -Weekend etc. -April 1, 1993
Kopple's neglected 'American Dream'

One great documentary which did
not get snubbed at the Academy Awards
was Barbara Kopple's "American
Dream," which won the Oscar two years
ago. The only snub it did receive was in
distribution: released a full year after
"th Oscars, it didn't reach Ann Arbor
until it played the Michigan last August
-just before everyone arrived in town.
Thanks to the AAFC, audiences will get
another chance to see it tomorrow.
The limited release is hardly surpris-

plantin Austin, Minnesota cut the wages
of its workers from $10.69 to $8.25 an
hour, despite the company's $30 mil-
lion profits of the past year. The film
follows the struggle of union UFCW
Local P-9 against the company, a
struggle which led to a 25-week walk-
out that cost every striking member
their job - except those who crossed
the picketlines. Tomake thefin,Kopple
became a trusted member of the com-
munity, living in an Austin motel for
three years.
Where the film takes on the weight
of a classical tragedy is in the union's
doomed fight against the insurmount-
ablepowerofthe company and, the way
American business works. Backed by
the union-busting policies of the Reagan
era, Hormel embodies the fate which
one can only accept, or be crushed by.
Kopple portrays those who struggle
against their fate as initially heroic, but
ultimately misguided. Soft-spoken Jim
Guyette, president of P-9, puts it this
way: "People who believe in what
they're doing are the most dangerous
kind of folks in the world." He's right in
different way than he realizes. At the
beginning of the film, we completely
sympathize with P-9's fight, cheering

ing, however, considering that the sub-
ject - a strike at a meat-packing plant
-sounds like the worst stereotype of a
boring documentary. People who've
seen Kopple' swork know thatit's much
more than it sounds; I'm writing this for
those who would never consider going
to see a nonfiction film. "American
Dream" is so brilliant and so accessible
because it is just as involving and com-
plex as any great work of fiction.
In the early '80s, the Hormel Foods

on the little guy against big business as
if it were a Depression-era comedy.
But Frank Capra this ain't. As the
film and the strike wear on, however,
we come to the heartbreaking realiza-
tion that Guyette is leading his union
into destruction. The mob mentality of
the union members obscures the fact
that their campaign against Hormel is
getting themnowhere. Dissenters within
the union, such as John Morrison, are
abruptly shouted down atmeetings with-
out receiving any answers to the ques-
tion, "Where is this strike going?"
It's in this intra-union strife where
the film becomes most complex and
most affecting. Morrison is one of the
strikers who ended up crossing the picket
line. Instead of merely condemning these
men as scabs, as she did in her other
Oscar-winning feature, "Harlan County
U.S.A.," Kopple even-handedly gives
theirsideofthestory jnthemostwrench-
ing scene of the film, we hear their
compelling reasons for their decision.
"My family comes before my union,"
oneman says, crying. Kopple evenrides
in the truck with them as they cross the
picketlines, passing their lifelong friends
and relatives along the way.
One of the other unforgettable char-
acters in this tragedy is the soothsayer,
Lewie Anderson, negotiator for the in-
ternational union. From the very begin-
ning Anderson tells P-9 that their fightis
"doomed." At the time, he seems to us
and to P-9 like a bureaucrat getting in
the way of a grass-roots movement. Yet
everything he predicts does occur.
Anderson is right, but hardly heroic.
He's much more than a bureaucrat, an
effective, realistic union fighter. But in
facing the reality of the situation, hehas,
in a sense, given up. We want desper-
ately to sympathize with the idealism of
P-9, but their mismanagement is just as
infuriating. The death of their dream is
the death of the American dream.
The problem, of course, is much
greaterthanHormel and P-9 and Ander-
son. "American Dream" reveals a fun-
damental conundrum of the American
system, in which companies are able to
cut wages just because they can, and
where the working class cannot make
enough to simply, as one woman puts it,
"just live in our homes." But the most
tragic aspect of this brilliant tragedy is
that it's not fiction - there is no cathar-
sis. In the end, we feel just as sicken-
ingly powerless as the members of P-9.
Friday at 8p.m. in Angell Aud A

- - --~
g t tes ssoms W spnngtm


1 m
1217 PROSPECT, ANN ARBOR 665-1771
~ OFF with this ad.


The mythical spring thaw that took
solong tomakeitto Ann Arborthisyear
must have raised community angst to a
new level. How else can one explain the
explosion of closedmindedness and
impatience that precipitated so many
free speech crises this month? Students
can only hope that lastweekend' sbalmy
weather is here to stay, before their
rights to talk about anything more con-
troversial than the weather burn off
along with the fog.

- p

"Best Haircut
in Ann Arbor"
s voted in The Michigan Daily
Best of Ann Arbor Poll 1992
715 N. University
(Next to Comerica)

.941 SPe C'M

An "ussie Rd." sign still hangs in
a West Quad window, just daring some
deranged anti-free speech feminist with
a good throwing arm to put a brick
through it. The men who put up the
original "Pussie Rd." sign covered the
"P" in a unilateral compromise with
irate letter-writers who found the sign
offensive and degrading. Nothing like
standing up for your onvictions.
The only good things to come outof
this debate were the scores of evil per-
verts and sexists who came out of the
woodwork to suggest other candidate
signs such as "Big Beaver Rd." and "I
Have a Really Big Penis Rd."
A group of Michigan journalism
fellows whitewashed an original Pat
Oliphant cartoon off their mantle in a
University-owned building. The syndi-
cated Washington Post cartoonist
sketched a cartoon of Bill Clinton, cit-
ing the president's love for "pussy" as
his reason for owning a cat (admittedly
not much of a joke, and one with un-
questionable sexist overtones) at the
request of some of the writers.
Obviously neither Oliphantnorany-
body else should have the right to gar-

ner wall spact
bling onthen
ertheless, I w
more toleran
from a group
terattack on st
repeatedly gat
Strangely, in
obedience , th
its illegal rail
only assembly
Despite th
Students offi
down a ports
Liberty that st
of the no-shy
have gotten th
bolism. It wa
terror as left-w
lutionary Wor
with ice and
free speech f
spring has b
when the Naz
Not bad fo
keley" where
when the De
rolls into tow
when the looti
tournament g,
spring exciter
namely that ti
to these self-a
Take Mich
handedly lau
debate withj
ignorance of 1
esque underst
late the stude
Avila, the sign
to women, b
"future leader
"If the sig
nority group,

e forever simply by scrib- pursue different lifestyles it would not
earestavailablewall.Nev- still be up," she wrote the Daily last.
ould have expected a little month.
ce and clearheadedness "Something needs to be done. We
of journalists. need to unite and raise our protest so that
strators launched a coun- action will be taken," she wrote, imply-
udentprotesters who have ing that students should do what a gut-
thered sans permit to pro- less administration would not and force.
consolidated Diag policy. the degenerates to take down the sign.
a surprise move of civil Hell, the men had practically raped her.
he group has held each of anyway, why not lock them up now?
lies at 12:00 a.m. - the Then again, due process rights seem
y time allowed under the tobe out of vogue on campus these days
anyway, and theadministrationhas been
ese protests, The Dean of anything but gutless when it comes to
ce gave the order to tear cracking down on students. Last week,
ait of a gagged Statue of the University suspended the first stu-
udents erectedin defiance dent under the new code - only it
anty rule. Nobody must forgot to give the guy a hearing.
ie Tiannmen square sym- As conspiracy theorists know, the
s a little abstract. code is an attempt by the University to
of imported Nazis fled in construct its own legal system, so that it
iing Nazis from the Revo- can eventually create an entirely au-
kers League pelted them tonomous state and secede from the
iron bolts shouting, "No state of Michigan so we don'thave tolet
for fascists." You know in-state students into thermedical school.
een too long in coming Rumor has it that-the administration
is are the good guys. is taking other steps to make the campus
r the has-been "little Ber- more self sufficient. These include a
students only assemble plan to build anew agriculture school so
mocratic party machine that the University can begin growing
n during election year or its own staple crops, and a plan to con-
ngisgoodafteranNCAA strict a giant wall surrounding the en-
ame. Still, all of this pre- tire campus to protect it from foreign
nent has its drawbacks - invasions and people who still say the
he rest of us have to listen word "AIDS victims."(Ironically, word
aggrandizing crusaders. has it that Regent Deanne "say no to
ielle de Avila, who single- sodomy" Baker's Ann Arbor construc-
nched the "Pussie Rd." tion company has obtained the bid.)
nothing more than total Butsuch drasticactions may benec-
U.S. law and a Sharpton- essary. With all of the crazies in town,
anding of how to manipu- from renegade fringe cartoonists like
nt press. According to de Pat Oliphant to Nazis who have the
iwas not only demeaning audacity to get pelted in a public place,
ut inappropriate for the somebody's got to do something to lock
s of tomorrow." these people up. If you don't nip these
n were insulting to a mi- Nazis in the bud, you never know when
to men, or to those who the fascists will take over.

Brain ower
in 24 hours



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