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Barbara Kopple

Barbara Kopple

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Also Known As: Barbara J Kopple Died:
Born: July 30, 1946 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Bear Mountain, New York, USA Profession: documentarian, director, sound technician, producer, camera operator, editor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Documentarist whose celebrated films have focused almost exclusively on the struggle of workers to form unions. Kopple began making films in her clinical psychology class while at college in West Virginia and went to live among her coal-mining subjects in Kentucky to film her Oscar-winning debut, "Harlan County, U.S.A." (1976). The film chronicles the miners' violent struggle to join the United Mine Workers union and the effect of the strike on the lives of them and their families. Praised for putting a human face on a political issue, it was one of 25 films chosen by the Library of Congress to be placed on its Film Registry in 1990.In the late 1970s Kopple began work on her first non-documentary film, a fictionalized account of textile mill worker Crystal Lee Jordan's five-year struggle to unionize the factory where she worked; the project was aborted when it conflicted with Martin Ritt's "Norma Rae" (1979), loosely based on the same incidents. Kopple, however, used much of her research for the 1983 TV film "Keeping On," also about textile mill workers' attempts to organize.Kopple's second documentary, "American Dream" (1990), which tracks the course of a bitter meat-packers' strike at the Hormel...

Documentarist whose celebrated films have focused almost exclusively on the struggle of workers to form unions. Kopple began making films in her clinical psychology class while at college in West Virginia and went to live among her coal-mining subjects in Kentucky to film her Oscar-winning debut, "Harlan County, U.S.A." (1976). The film chronicles the miners' violent struggle to join the United Mine Workers union and the effect of the strike on the lives of them and their families. Praised for putting a human face on a political issue, it was one of 25 films chosen by the Library of Congress to be placed on its Film Registry in 1990.

In the late 1970s Kopple began work on her first non-documentary film, a fictionalized account of textile mill worker Crystal Lee Jordan's five-year struggle to unionize the factory where she worked; the project was aborted when it conflicted with Martin Ritt's "Norma Rae" (1979), loosely based on the same incidents. Kopple, however, used much of her research for the 1983 TV film "Keeping On," also about textile mill workers' attempts to organize.

Kopple's second documentary, "American Dream" (1990), which tracks the course of a bitter meat-packers' strike at the Hormel plant in Minnesota, became legendary for the length of time it took to complete. While management in "American Dream" behaves somewhat monolithically, Kopple also uses her omnipresent camera to capture the self-doubts of, and differences between, the striking laborers. Compared to "Harlan County," "American Dream" finds a labor movement badly divided, unsure whether to trust leadership that seems both too charismatic and less than pragmatic. Kopple's film had its world premiere at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival, where it won a special jury prize, the filmmaker's trophy and the audience award as most popular film. It also earned Kopple her second Oscar for best documentary in 1990.

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DIRECTOR:

1.
  Gun Fight (2011)
2.
3.
  My Generation (2000) Director
5.
  Wild Man Blues (1997) Director
8.
  No Nukes (1980) Documentary Footage Director
9.
  Harlan County, U.S.A. (1976) Director
10.
  Hamptons, The (2002) Director

CAST: (feature film)

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Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in Scarsdale, New York
:
Began making films in a clinical psychology class in college
:
Worked professionally as an editor, soundwoman and camerawoman on documentary films often for the Maysles brothers
:
Was camerawoman on a video about the Young Republicans for Nixon at the Republican convention and soundwoman on film about the Year of the Woman at the Democratic convention
1972:
Was one of the 18 anonymous directors of "Winter Solider"
1972:
Moved to Harlan County in Kentucky to film union struggle at the Brookside mine
1976:
Produced and directed documentary, "Harlan County, USA"; film shown at the New York Film Festival; cost $350,000
1978:
Announced fictional feature project under the working title, "Crystal Lee", based on Crystal Lee Jordan's struggle to unionize workers in J P Stevens textile mill in Roanoke Rapids NC and her gradual politicization over a five year period; Kopple was to produce and direct; initial script was by Nancy Dowd and Rip Torn had been signed to portray the union organizer; Kopple had researched working conditions when she began a two-week stint as a towel folder in a Southern mill in March 1978, earning $2.25/hour for a ten-hour day
1979:
"Crystal Lee" abandoned when Martin Ritt began production on "Norma Rae", loosely based on the same woman and the same mill workers' strike
1979:
Co-directed documentary footage of concert film, "No Nukes", with Haskell Wexler
1983:
Directed first fiction film and first TV movie, "Keeping On" for PBS's "American Playhouse", which dealt with unionization of textile mill workers in the south
1993:
Produced and directed "Fallen Champ: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson," a rare primetime documentary for NBC-TV for which she was given creative control
1998:
Earned widespread praise for "Wild Man Blues", a documentary about the 1996 European tour of Woody Allen's jazz band
1998:
Executive produced and directed "Friends for Life: Living With AIDS" (The DIsney Channel)
1999:
Signed to make fictional feature directorial debut "In the Boom Boom Room", adapted from David Rabe's play
2000:
Helmed the documentary "My Generation"
:
Directed documentary set in the Hamptons (lensed 2001) for ABC TV; set to air in 2002
2002:
Produced an HBO documentary "American Standoff"
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Education

Northeastern University: Boston , Massachusetts -
New School for Social Research: New York , New York -

Notes

"My overall goal, is to let people speak and let them be heard, because what they are saying is really important, as important or more important than anything President Bush has to say. It's to film stories about people that you wouldn't ordinarily get to see. To think that these people's stories are going to be shown, that other people will hear them, as a film maker that gives me a tremendous amount of strength to carry on."--Barbara Kopple (quoted in NEW YORK TIMES, March 24, 1992)

"I knew there was a poignant story out there about what was happening in Middle America to people who believed in the American dream, the American work ethic, the whole notion of upward mobility, and who were watching those beliefs become unraveled. We had no idea of the kind of, not physical brutality, but mental brutality people would endure to try to keep decent jobs with decent pay, the kinds of things they learned to believe in all their lives."--Barbara Kopple discussing "American Dream" (quoted in NEW YORK TIMES, March 24, 1992)

Kopple also produced "Hurricane Irene", a high-definition videotape of an international peace festival filmed in Japan and featuring live performances by Jackson Browne and Peter Gabriel. She also produced and directed "Civil Rights: The Struggle Continues" (c. 1989), a video documentary about the 25th anniversary activities held in commemoration of the civil rights workers James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman slain in Mississippi in 1964.

"Harlan County, USA" was named by Congress to the National Film Registry designating it an American classic (1990)

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Hart Perry. Director, director of photography. Divorced.
husband:
Gene Carroll. Former union organizer.

Family close complete family listing

uncle:
Murray Burnett. Playwright. Co-author of "Everybody Comes to Rick's", play on which the screenplay for "Casablanca" was based.
son:
Nicholas Perry. Born c. 1981.

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