This “beautifully told and eye-opening account of the legacy of industrial mining in the American West” recounts the sometimes glorious, often sorrowful, but always fascinating story of Butte, Montana, once the world’s largest producer of copper — the “Richest Hill on Earth,” the town that “plumbed and electrified America,” the Pittsburgh of the West. In Butte the Industrial Revolution collided with the romance of the frontier, corporate capitalism battled organized labor, and human appetite laid waste to land and water, yielding fortunes for a few and a tragic environmental legacy for the people left behind.
Those people — the ones left behind to deal with mining’s toxic legacy — are at the heart of the film: miners, their families, the multiethnic working class neighborhoods they created amidst danger and hardship. In a copper crucible, they forged a community whose toughness, vitality, and solidarity speak to what’s missing in America today.
Told in a dramatically rich and visually lush traditional documentary style, Butte, America deftly layers intimate personal commentary against an epic historical backdrop of industrialization, mass immigration, world war, national and world politics, and environmental degradation. The film is anchored by first-hand accounts of Butte mining families whose lives intersected the key historical events of the past 130 years.
Butte, America tells both an historical and an intensely contemporary story. As more and more countries around the world pursue an urban-industrial lifestyle, the story of Butte becomes a story for the world.
By locating Butte’s story in a global, 21st-century context, Butte, America will thoroughly engage students and stimulate reflection and discussion in a wide range of courses in sociology and social psychology, American history and American studies, development issues, environmental studies, and women’s and gender studies. It was produced and directed by Pamela Roberts for Rattlesnake Productions.
The DVD includes two extra features in addition to the 67-minute documentary: A poignant ten-minute segment titled “A Memorial: Remembering Our Friends,” and an insightful five-minute “behind the scenes” segment on the filming of the documentary. The DVD is closed-captioned.