In 1996, the locally produced documentary Struggles in Steel: A Story of African-American Steelworkers premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, bringing to light the forgotten contributors to an industry that defined Pittsburgh. On June 8, The Battle of Homestead Foundation will present a special screening of the film at the historic Pump House.
When a local television station did a program about the closing of the major steel mills in the Pittsburgh region, Ray Henderson, a former mill worker who had worked in the mills for 18 years, couldn’t help but notice that not one Black worker was shown. This despite the fact that African-American workers had formed a critical part of the labor force in western Pennsylvania for 125 years.
With his old friend and independent filmmaker Tony Buba, Henderson set out to collaborate on a history of African-Americans and their contributions not just to the steel industry, but to the labor movement itself. Through eloquent living witnesses and revelatory archival footage, the film presents a striking counterpoint to the stereotypical Black male image.
Featuring interviews with over 70 African-American workers, Struggles In Steel documents the shameful history of discrimination against Black workers and one heroic campaign where they won equality on the job. (Synopsis courtesy of Braddock Films)
The Struggles in Steel screening takes place from 7-9 p.m. and includes a discussion with Buba. The event is free and open to the public.
On August 4th, the Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) and WESA will present the retrospective No Place but Home: An Evening with Filmmaker Tony Buba. The event is part of The Double Exposure Series, a part of CMOA’s Time-Based Media Project, which features “artists, preservationists, curators and scholars discussing the legacy of avant-garde film and video of the 1960s–1980s, including works in CMOA’s permanent collection and beyond.”
Since 1974, Braddock-based filmmaker Tony Buba has made over 20 films through his company Braddock Films, including the The Braddock Chronicles, a dozen black & white short documentaries chronicling life in a “dying milltown.” The event will include the premiere of No Place but Home, a documentary short by Ryan Loew and Matthew Newton that examines Buba’s career. Also showing are a selection of Buba’s films, including Betty’s Corner Café (1976), Washing Walls with Mrs. G. (1980), Mill Hunk Herald (1981), Fade Out (1998) and Ode to a Steeltown (2007), as well as a never-before-seen short.
No Place but Home: An Evening with Filmmaker Tony Buba will take place at 6 p.m. in the CMOA Theater. A post-screening Q&A with Buba will follow. Admission is free, but seating is limited.
Opened in 1906, Braddock Hospital, later known as UPMC Braddock, served the long-suffering community of Braddock, PA up until its closure in 2010. Two years after the devastating loss, one film hopes to show how race and economics played into UPMC’s controversial decision to close the hospital, and how a borough stood up to one of the largest health monopolies in the country in an effort to save it.
Tony Buba, a longtime local filmmaker and former sound person to director George Romero, is in the final stages of completing his documentary We Are Alive! The Fight To Save Braddock Hospital. Shot over a two and half-year period from October 2009 to June 2012, it chronicles the fight residents from Braddock and the Mon-Valley waged against UPMC to keep their community hospital open. The facility employed 630 people, mostly local, and its emergency room saw over 25,000 patients a year, making it the main source for healthcare and employment in Braddock and surrounding economically depressed areas. It also served as a community center, and was home to a YMCA, a chapel, and the town’s only restaurant.
UPMC claimed that the hospital was underutilized, but what they really meant was that the hospital was over-utilized by the wrong people: the working poor and people with no insurance or inadequate health insurance. The ten billion dollar non-profit medical corporate giant closed other hospitals without a struggle, but in Braddock, the people did fight back. We Are Alive! celebrates the citizens of the Mon-Valley and the grassroots organization Save Our Community Hospitals (SOCH) in their continuing battle for quality healthcare.
Buba and his team are now trying to raise $12,275 to help cover the cost of post-production work on the film. For those interested in supporting the project, please visit the film’s Kickstarter page to donate.