The Killing Floor
Director: Bill Duke
1984, 118 minutes, Online Screening, NR
CC not available
Cast: Damien Leake, Alfre Woodard, Clarence Felder, Moses Gunn, Dennis Farina
Distributor: Film Movement
During World War I, impoverished African-American father Frank Custer (Damien Leake) leaves his Southern family and heads to Chicago in search of work. After landing a job at one of the city’s many slaughterhouses, he gets caught up in the heated debate over organized labor. Before long he emerges as a hypnotic leader, urging his peers to join the union, a move that puts him at odds with his best friend, Thomas (Ernest Rayford), who starts to question Frank’s motivations for backing the union.
Praised by The Village Voice as the most “clear-eyed account of union organizing on film,” The Killing Floor tells the little-known true story of the struggle to build an interracial labor union in the Chicago Stockyards. The screenplay by Obie Award-winner Leslie Lee, based on an original story by producer Elsa Rassbach, traces the racial and class conflicts seething in the city’s giant slaughterhouses, and the brutal efforts of management to divide the workforce along ethnic lines, which eventually boiled over in the Chicago Race Riot of 1919. The first feature film by director Bill Duke, The Killing Floor premiered on PBS’ American Playhouse series in 1984 to rave reviews. In 1985 the film was invited to Cannes and won the Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Award. It has been showcased at the Lincoln Center and festivals around the world.
New 4K restoration. Preserved by UCLA Film & Television Archive, laboratory services and DCP by UCLA Film & Television Archive Digital Media Lab. Special thanks to Elsa Rassbach, Sundance Institute Collection at UCLA Film & Television Archive.