Based on actual events, Herbert Biberman's Salt of the Earth is a landmark film that is a powerful and persuasive labor rights drama that depicts a strike by Mexican-American mineworkers in New Mexico. With a cast comprised almost exclusively of non-professional actors, most of which being participants in the real-life strike, Salt of the Earth concerns itself with the measures taken by a group of largely Hispanic miners who have no choice but to unionize in an effort to improve their working and living conditions. Against this much larger social backdrop, Salt of the Earth tells a smaller family drama revolving around Ramon and Esperanza Quientero, a family effected by the horrible living conditions. While Salt of the Earth is without question a seething portrait of the mistreatment of blue-collar workers, the film's greatest attribute is its unbelievable foresight, where it basically anticipates the woman's liberation moment which wouldn't come to be for another decade. When the miners find themselves bullied, beaten, and oppressed by the company, it's their wives who stand up in protest, keeping the strike alive, even when their husbands are reluctant to accept their help. Herbert Biberman was clearly interested in raising awareness for woman with this story, capturing how the machoism of the miners and men in general, leads them to resent their wives, unable to wholeheartedly accept that their perceived "lesser-halves" could achieve what they can't. Even going one step further, Biberman creates a complete role reversal among the males and females, showing the men staying at home to take care of their families while the woman protest. From a technical standpoint, there is nothing overly impressive about Salt of the Earth, wearing its message firmly on its sleeve with little subtlety or nuance to its storytelling. Make no mistake, Herbert Biberman's Salt of the Earth is without a doubt a propaganda film by definition but its overall message and incredibly foresight make it nonetheless impressive.
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