Lesson 8 Research Activity
Goin’ Hollywood: The Industry and You

At the Movies: Salt of the Earth and Koyaanisqatsi

Salt of the Earth, made in 1953, is America’s only blacklisted feature film. Industry executives and unions conspired first to try to prevent it from being made, then to prevent distribution of the film. They were largely successful: it was more than 10 years before the film saw limited release in the U.S. and another 10 before it became an admired classic.

It remains a remarkable independent production, as different from the Hollywood norm as you can conceive. A "docudrama" (many years before the word existed), it tells the story of a real strike at a mine in New Mexico. It is the great American neorealist classic, evincing many of the attributes that made Italian neorealist films (which preceded it by just a few years) international favorites. It has survived and thrived after half a century because it resonates in so many ways: with unions, with feminists, with Latinos, with libertarians, with New Mexicans, and with history buffs.

Koyaanisqatsi is Godfrey Reggio’s breathtaking 1982 poem (on film) about the threat of technology to the natural world. It gained a lot of attention when it was first released in 1983 and it continues to be an art film favorite. Reggio has gone on to make two more episodes in his trilogy: Powaqqatsi (1988) and Naqoyqatsi (2002). All were scored by Philip Glass. Koyaanisqatsi is a Hopi word meaning, "Life out of balance." Reggio is based in New Mexico, home of the Hopis.

Salt of the Earth and Koyaanisqatsi offer you two New Mexican koans (paradoxes to be meditated upon to gain enlightenment) to contemplate now―and after this course has ended.

Student Materials

Time Estimate

3 hours


Watch Salt of the Earth and Koyaanisqatsi while thinking about the following topic.


Please post your response to the following topic (as well as your reasoning behind that response) on the class message board.

After having seen Salt of the Earth and Koyaanisqatsi, from now on:

(Choose one)