Barbara Kopple

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Barbara Kopple
Barbara Kopple 2015.jpg
Kopple at the May 2015 Montclair Film Festival
Born (1946-07-30) July 30, 1946 (age 72)
New York City, New York
OccupationFilm director

Barbara Kopple (born July 30, 1946) is an American film director known primarily for her documentary work.

Life and career[edit]

Barbara Kopple in conversation

Kopple grew up in Scarsdale, New York, the daughter of a textile executive, and studied psychology at Northeastern University, after which she worked with the Maysles Brothers.

She has won two Academy Awards, the first in 1976 for Harlan County, USA, about a Kentucky miners' strike,[1] and the second in 1991 for American Dream, the story of the Hormel Foods strike in Austin, Minnesota in 1985-86.[2] She has directed episodes of the television drama series Homicide: Life on the Street and Oz, winning a Directors Guild of America award for the former. Kopple also directed A Conversation With Gregory Peck and Bearing Witness, as well as documentaries on Mike Tyson and Woody Allen. The latter film, Wild Man Blues, focuses on his Dixieland jazz tour and on Allen's relationship with Soon-Yi Previn.

Her first non-documentary feature film, Havoc, starred Anne Hathaway and Bijou Phillips as wealthy suburbanites who venture into East Los Angeles Latino gang territory, and was released straight to DVD in 2005. Kopple has recently ventured into advertising work that includes documentary-style commercials for Target Stores.

She was also among the 19 filmmakers who worked together anonymously (under the rubric Winterfilm Collective) to produce the film Winter Soldier, an anti-war documentary about the Winter Soldier Investigation. She has also done films for The Working Group, directing the 30-minute short documentary Locked Out in America: Voices From Ravenswood for the We Do the Work series. (We Do the Work aired in the mid-1990s on the PBS television series "P.O.V.", and Kopple's segment was based on the book Ravenswood: The Steelworkers' Victory and the Revival of American Labor.)

In the fall of 2006, she released a documentary, Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing, about the Dixie Chicks' George W. Bush-related controversy.

In 2012 Kopple released two films. One is about Mariel Hemingway, the granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, and the other is concerning the 150th Anniversary of The Nation magazine. The film on Hemingway, Running from Crazy, was shown at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

In 2014 the UK's Sight and Sound magazine published a "Greatest Documentaries of All Time" list, in which Kopple's film Harlan County, USA (1976) was ranked 24th, tied with two other movies.[3][4]

When beginning to make the film Harlan County, USA Kopple was promised a $9,000 grant then was later denied. This happened countless times before she eventually secured the necessary funds. The moving image collection of Barbara Kopple is held at the Academy Film Archive, which preserved Harlan County, USA.[5]

Kopple is a niece of the American playwright Murray Burnett.[citation needed]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Harlan County USA". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2018-03-23.
  2. ^ Rachleff, Peter (1992). "Review of American Dream [Film]". The Oral History Review. 20 (1/2): 94–96. JSTOR 3674859.
  3. ^ Inkoo Kang (2014-08-04). "Sight and Sound Publishes Top 50 Documentaries List | IndieWire". Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  4. ^ "The Best Documentaries of All Time | Sight & Sound". 2017-01-05. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  5. ^ "Barbara Kopple Collection". Academy Film Archive.

External links[edit]