The Killing Floor

image from the film The Killing Floor

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image from the film THE KILLING FLOOR

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 WWI-era struggle to build an interracial labor union in the Chicago Stockyards, just 10 years removed from Upton Sinclair’s exposé The Jungle. Made in Chicago by an all-Union crew shortly after the city elected its first Black mayor, Bill Duke’s debut feature (based on a meticulously-researched story by producer Elsa Rassbach) depicts 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, setting the stage for the Chicago Race Riot of 1919.

On the release of the recent digital restoration: “This film succeeds in telling the untold truth at a time when we are exposed only to revisions of the same old story. As we careen blindly through these numbed out days of historical and cultural amnesia, any restoration to memory of time actually lived brings with it a kind of revelatory shock, an insistent shaking up of the deaf-, dumb-, and blindness that constitute a simulated present.” (Barbara Kruger, Artforum)

The Killing Floor is part of our nation's history—a fascinating and bloody episode in the history of the U.S. labor movement... a powerful, personal drama....” (Chicago Tribune)