The packed audience at last night's 30th anniversary screening of the labor classic "Matewan" gave director John Sayles an extended standing ovation as he accepted the Tony Mazzocchi Labor Arts Award, named after the co-founder (with Jos Williams) of the 17-year-old DC Labor FilmFest, which anchors the DC LaborFest, now in its fourth year. "What I was able to get into the film is that the process of working people organizing, the process of creating a union with a small 'u,' has been really, really important culturally to this country," said Sayles. "What it gets to is the concept of 'we.' Employers throughout history have tried to separate people...it might be race, it might be ethnicity, it might be religion, it might be sex; they've always used that as a tool against working people. What I've seen over the years is that the most successful unions are the ones with the widest definition of 'we.'" (click below to continue)
photo (l-r): AFI programmers Ben Delgado and Abbie Algar, Garlock, Dudzic, Renzi (holding award), Sayles, Zinn and Jimenez. photo by Bruce Guthrie.
The award was presented by LaborFest Co-Chair Mark Dudzic, Metro Washington Council Executive Director Carlos Jimenez, National Nurses United national political director Ken Zinn and DC LaborFest Director Chris Garlock. Zinn and Dudzic extolled Sayles' inspirational filmmaking and writing about ordinary workers as prime examples of the critical role art plays in the labor movement, while Jimenez applauded the record turnout that packed the AFI's 400-seat main theater, evenly split between those who have previously been to a LaborFest event and those who were attending their first. After the screening, Garlock conducted an audience Q&A with both Sayles and his longtime producer and partner Maggie Renzi, with questions focused not only on the film -- which many cited as a major influence on their lives -- but on the impact of art on the movement.
photo by Matt Losak; click here for Ken Zinn's remarks