For this assignment you may choose either of two films.
The first is Salt of the Earth, an award-winning 1954 film based on a real life zinc miners’ strike in New Mexico. At the time of its release, the film was boycotted by theaters because it was made by Hollywood professionals who were blacklisted by the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC). Since then it has become something of a cult classic. The story tells the true-life struggles of a mining community to achieve better working and living conditions. Most of the actors are local people. We are watching the film in this course because it exemplifies many of the ways in which gender, race/ethnicity, and social class shape family dynamics to begin with and in times of sudden change. The film is 90 minutes. It is available through Netflix as a DVD and also via streaming and through Google at no charge; see the link at the end of this document. You may be able to find a copy through other outlets including libraries.
The second film is A Raisin in the Sun (1961), another award winning film. The script was written by Lorraine Hansberry based on her Broadway play of the same name. It depicts an African American family whose lives are thrown into turmoil when a substantial insurance payment could mean either financial salvation or personal ruin for them. This film was made with professional actors, most of whom were in the Broadway play. As with the miners and their families in Salt of the Earth, this film exposes how gender, race/ethnicity and social class construct family relations and family conflicts, what keeps them together and what splits them apart. This film is available from Netflix and other film rental sources as well as libraries, though no free download has been located. Special note: do not use the 2008 remake of this film. Be sure you view the 1961 original.
For either film, the paper should be 5 pages in length, text only. Use either MLA for Works Cited and parenthetical citations or APA for References and parenthetical citations. In your paper, you must cite two or more specific readings from this class to illuminate what happens in the film. You may draw from any of the readings in the syllabus, but should focus on the readings in weeks 3 and 4 of our course. It is not necessary to use other sources. Specifically, you are instructed NOT to read reviews of the film nor to draw anything in your paper from any other sources found elsewhere. Do not collaborate with classmates, and do you own work.
The following questions are to get you started in focusing on a sociological analysis. Look for readings that go with these topics and relate them to the film. Write your paper as an integrated essay with an introduction and thesis, a logical development of key ideas and a conclusion; do not write the paper as a series of answers to the questions.
One of the important themes we have been studying is the relationship between the family and the economy. Discuss how the families in this film are affected by the economic structure of their community and of the larger society.
In what ways are traditional gender roles challenged by the events depicted in the film? What happens to men? What happens to women?
How does race/ethnicity affect what happens to family members during the events of the film?
Where would you place the family in the social class system and why?
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