Matewan (1987): John Sayle’s Oscar Nominated Tale

A vast improvement over John Sayles’ previous efforts, “Matewan,” explores the personal and political dimensions of union-making and union-breaking in West Virginia’s coal mines of the 1920s.

A complex study of individual integrity and community solidarity, the film was assisted by Haskell Wexler’s luminous cinematography of Appalachian locations and Mason Daring’s blue-grass soundtrack.

However, Sayles’ unabashed homage to the martyr years of American labor was not sufficiently engaging from a dramatic standpoint.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Cinematography: Haskell Wexler

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The winner was Vittorio Storaro for The Last Emperor