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Brothers On The Line

The extraordinary story of the Reuther brothers who challenged the automobile industry, and helped build the union movement that remade America.

A printer-friendly version of this page 81 minutes
SDH Captioned>>

Directed by Sasha Reuther
Produced by Sasha Reuther, Nancy Roth
Writer: Sasha Reuther
Editor: Deborah Peretz
Cinematography: Joe Gabriel
Composer / Music Supervisor: Michael Whalen
Narrator: Martin Sheen
A Porter Street Pictures Production

"Historically striking and fast-paced...I kept asking myself, 'Why don't I know about this?'" Alex Knotman, Eugene Weekly
Note: This film is only available for streaming or DSL. Connect to Docuseek for streaming prices.

BROTHERS ON THE LINE is an award-winning documentary feature exploring the extraordinary journey of the Reuther brothers - Walter, Roy, and Victor - prolific labor organizers whose social justice movement, under the banner of the United Auto Workers union, transformed the landscape of a nation. It is being re-released to inspire and encourage the burgeoning revival of union organizing in the post-COVID era.

Directed by Victor's grandson, Sasha, and narrated by Martin Sheen, the film is an in-depth study of one family's rise from auto plant organizers in 1930s Detroit to leaders in collective bargaining, civil rights, and international worker solidarity. It features rare archival footage and first-hand accounts from a spectrum of labor, management, social activist, and political personalities, including one of the last interviews with Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Behind the dramatic headlines of picket line conflict, assassination attempts, heated Senate hearings, and inter-union power struggles, lies a stirring personal story of determination, sacrifice, triumph, and tragedy. This influential and often controversial 40-year crusade would contribute to lifting millions of workers to a middle-class living and compel American democracy to live up to its promise of equality.

Grade Level: 10 -12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2022     Copyright Date: 2012
DVD ISBN: 1-948745-86-0

"Searing scenes...a concise and moving story...and it needs to be told to every generation."
Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times

"Inspiring...If you want to know how we once created a 'middle class' - and what it will probably take to get it back - watch this movie. It is a great piece of filmmaking about an under covered part of our American history."
Michael Moore, American documentary filmmaker

"Highly Recommended...Remarkable work that provides insight on both the national implications of the American labor movement from its inception, and the personal details of the lives of key players...A simply perfect assembly of historical evidence."
Michael J. Coffta, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, Educational Media Reviews Online

"This well-researched documentary deservedly celebrates the organization's positive impact on 20th-century history. Recommended."
P. Hall, Video Librarian

"Very highly recommended for adult collections concerned with U.S. and labor history."
Cliff Glaviano, Library Journal

"Technically superb...Presents the good as well as questionable aspects of the brothers' actions...An ideal film for use in economic anthropology, culture of capitalism, and the anthropology of work courses."
Thomas Stevenson, Anthropology Review Database

"Poignant...Underscores just how far the auto workers progressed in American society...An emotional era when white labor leaders joined in allegiance with black leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. to combine their fierce dedication for broadening opportunities and advancing the political and social power that could be forged."
Robert Lenzner, Forbes

"Brothers on the Line is an intimate and honest portrait of the Reuther brothers' deep commitment - visionary, courageous, passionate, shrewd, and ruthless - to organizing auto workers into the most powerful and influential U.S. labor union in the 20th century. This excellent labor history documentary includes a rich array of archival footage depicting daring and fearless industrial workers fighting to build working class power in the face of violent corporate repression. It a gem of an educational tool that is mandatory viewing in my labor history class - which my students confirm year after year."
Gene Carroll, Cornell ILR School Worker Institute Fellow, and Adjunct Faculty, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies

"A story of the Greatest Generation, Brothers On the Line recounts the twentieth-century campaigns by American autoworkers to advance and secure industrial and social democracy in the United States. It is essential viewing at this time of labor's resurgence and working Americans' growing aspirations to redeem and build upon the democratic achievements of the New Deal and Great Society years."
Harvey J. Kaye, Professor Emeritus of Democracy and Justice Studies, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Author, The Fight for the Four Freedoms: What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great

"A compelling and honest film that documents the creation of one of the U. S.'s preeminent unions and the integral role played by three courageous brothers in this monumental achievement. As both a stirring personal story and a thoughtful account of social unionism, Brothers on the Line can be used in both undergraduate and adult education settings to introduce students to important themes in U. S. labor and working-class history."
Bob Bussel, Professor Emeritus of History, Labor Education and Research Center, University of Oregon

"Remarkable and engaging...An exceptionally well-told account."
David Moberg, In These Times

"A time when a handsome, eloquent working-class leader-flanked by his indefatigable younger brothers-could go toe-to-toe with the bosses publicly and win on a regular basis, seems today more like fantasy than history. For that reason alone, Brothers On The Line deserves a wide audience."
Jefferson Cowie, Dissent Magazine

"Brothers On the Line shows us that the struggle for workers' rights goes hand in hand with the battles for a more humane society...Among Walmart's more than one million American workers, there are many potential union leaders...Perhaps there are even three sisters who now work at Walmart and will become national leaders in this new wave of workplace organizing."
Peter Dreier, Huffington Post

"Historically striking and fast-paced...I kept asking myself, 'Why don't I know about this?'"
Alex Knotman, Eugene Weekly

"A touching homage to three working-class men who played an underappreciated role in every major social movement during 40 years of American history."
Trey Pollard, Washington City Paper

"Nothing speaks to us greater than the role of the unsung hero...Brothers On The Line will leave you feeling inspired."
Patrick Mitchell, The Film Yap

"This film is brilliant...A remarkable piece of history as well as a cautionary tale for our times."
Thom Hartmann, The Big Picture

"Unabashedly truthful...A clarion call to all workers from whatever class they think they're from to decide which side they're on."
Ron Verzuh, labor historian, author, Smelter Wars: A Rebellious Red Trade Union Fights for Its Life in Wartime Western Canada

"UAW Wisconsin stood with Brothers On the Line at the premiere last night in Madison. Proud and emotional night for us. Sasha Reuther tells a story in film like Victor told in voice. Thank you."
John Drew, Regional Representative, United Auto Workers (UAW)

"A moving, insightful, and well put together documentary that anyone with an interest in history, civil rights, and documentary filmmaking should see, if only to see how much of a difference a few can make for so many."
Patrick Samuel, Static Mass Emporium

"Inspiring...Reminds us of an important period in American history and teaches valuable lessons that today's labor movement must learn for its own survival."
Mike Konopacki, Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons

"This is an excellent introduction to the history of the UAW and the many contributions organized working people have made to American life. Brothers On the Line powerfully recounts not only the rise of the Reuther brothers, but the crucial role unions have played in the long and ongoing struggle to make the United States of America a nation truly of, by, and for the people."
Jason Resnikoff, Assistant Professor of Contemporary History, University of Groningen, Author, Labor's End: How the Promise of Automation Degraded Work

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Awards and Festivals
Best Feature Documentary, Michigan Film Awards
Best Feature Documentary, Workers Unite Film Festival
Audience Choice Award, Mendocino Film Festival
Best Feature Documentary, Thin Line Film Festival
Silver Telly Award
Bronze Plaque, Columbus International + Video Film Festival
Traverse City Film Festival
Washington, DC International Film Festival
Indianapolis International Film Festival
Reel Work Labor Film Festival
Hell's Half Mile Film Festival
Stranger Than Fiction Film Series, NYC
NewFilmmakers NYC
Montclair Film Festival

American Democracy
American Studies
Business Practices
Civil Rights
Film Studies
Global Issues
Human Rights
Labor and Work Issues
Organized Crime
Political Science
Social Justice
Social Movements
Urban Studies

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... more Reviews

"A gripping portrait of three fearless, visionary fighters for worker justice. Brothers On the Line reveals why millions of Americans turned to unions in the 1930s and how the labor movement they created moved the society toward fairness and equality. Evocative and thoughtful, this beautifully rendered history raises profound questions of how we can revalue work and restore shared prosperity."
Dorothy Sue Cobble, Distinguished Professor Emerita, History and Labor Studies, Rutgers University

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