Wobblies, The: Compelling Documentary of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World)


4k Restoration of the Landmark Labor Movement Documentary by  Stewart Bird & Deborah Shaffer


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USA | 1979 | 89 mins | Color | English

“Solidarity! All for One and One for All!” Founded in Chicago in 1905, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) took to organizing unskilled workers into one big union and changed the course of American history.

This compelling documentary of the IWW (or “The Wobblies” as they were known), narrated by Roger Baldwin, one of the founders of the ACLU, tells the story of workers in factories, sawmills, wheat fields, forests, mines and on the docks as they organize and demand better wages, healthcare, overtime pay and safer working conditions. In some respects, men and women, Black and white, skilled and unskilled workers joining a union and speaking their minds seems so long ago, but in other ways, the film mirrors today’s headlines, depicting a nation torn by corporate greed.

Filmmakers Deborah Shaffer and Stewart Bird weave history, archival film footage, interviews with former workers (in their 80s and 90s during the making of the film), cartoons, original art, and classic Wobbly songs (many written by Joe Hill) to pay tribute to the legacy of these rebels who paved the way and risked their lives for the many of the rights that we still have today. The film was restored by the Museum of Modern Art and selected for preservation in 2021 by the Library of Congress National Film Registry, joining other essential documentaries such as The Fog of War, Paris is Burning, and Harlan County, USA. Kino Lorber is proud to return The Wobblies to theaters on May Day 2022 to commemorate the historic struggles and gains made by workers and the labor movement.

Filmmaker Statement
When we started production on The Wobblies in 1977 our goal was to rescue and record an almost completely neglected chapter of American history as told by its elderly survivors. We never imagined then that the themes of labor exploitation, anti-immigrant legislation, and racial and gender discrimination would resonate as strongly today. We couldn’t be prouder to have the film included last year in the National Film Registry, and to have Kino Lorber present the new 4K MoMA restoration nationwide on International Workers Day.
—Stewart Bird & Deborah Shaffer
The Wobblies’ was digitally scanned by the DuArt Digitization Center in full 4k resolution using the DFT Scanity. For the ultimate equality, the original cut ABC&D rolls of negative were the source for scanning and conforming into 4K 16-bit DPX files. The DPX media represents the new “digital negative” and was subsequently color graded and restored to create the archival and distribution masters. The new archival master is stored in MOMA’s Film Preservation Center
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