DENTON, Tex. – The University of North Texas (UNT) Young Communist League club showed the only U.S. blacklisted film, Salt of the Earth, to an audience of over 80 people here, Nov. 13. The presentation was the first installment in the club’s new Communist Culture Series.
The film is based on the true story of a 1950 zinc miners’ strike in New Mexico. The main characters, a Mexican-American family struggling to survive despite great social injustice, find their lives upset and their traditional gender roles challenged when an injunction against the striking workers forces the women to the picket lines and the men into the household.
Salt of the Earth was the first project of the Independent Productions Corporation, a group of blacklisted Communist filmmakers who believed they could get around the anti-communist witch hunts in Hollywood by making movies outside of the studio system.
The U.S. government banned the film, burned down its sets, blacklisted its screenwriter, incarcerated the producer/director, Herbert Biberman, for five years, deported the leading lady in the middle of filming, threatened post-production workers and intimidated theaters. Only 17 theaters in America showed the film during the McCarthy times, and police showed up at each screening and photographed those who entered the theater.
Matt Parker, UNT Young Communist League (YCL) club coordinator, said, “Texas is a fairly reactionary place. In order to counter the stigma Communists face, the club developed the Communist Culture Series.” Future installments will include documentaries, art shows and concerts.
The club received a lot of positive responses to the film. Several students talked with YCL members after the movie, and some signed up to join the club.
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