Rebel Frontier (65/52 mins) is an anti-war film set in the US which sees America’s immigrant communities up against the national security state. The war in question is the First World War and the anti-war protesters the Irish and Finnish miners of Butte, Montana a copper mining town high in the Rockies. Butte’s mines are at the centre of the US war machine. The miners band together to take on both the Copper barons and the US state as America enters the war.

Rebel Frontier draws on eye witness testimony, reminiscence and comment to tell the gripping story of the miners' struggle and betrayal. Interwoven with a rich seam of archival images, both moving and stills, it relates the traumatic events taking place in Butte during 1917 - the anti-war protest, the Speculator Mine disaster, the subsequent miners’ strike, the lynching of labour activist Frank Little and the imposition of martial law.

The story is told through the eyes of a young Pinkerton agent sent to Butte to spy on its striking miners and to report to the copper bosses on the activities of the ‘One Big Union’, the IWW. It takes as its inspiration Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest. In his first novel Hammett draws upon his experiences in Butte to fashion a vivid picture of corruption in the industrial city. Our film, neither documentary nor pure fiction, poses a series of searching questions about this almost forgotten chapter in US history when the still not assimilated immigrant working class found itself up against corporate America.

Director: Desmond Bell Narrator: Martin Sheen Producer: Robin MacPherson Co-producer: Donald Taylor Black

Cinematographer: Scott Ward Editors: John Kerry, Roger Buck Sound Design: Gerald Mair

An Asylum Pictures Production in association with Poolbeg Productions, Ireland for Scottish Screen, the Irish Film Board, RTE and YLE with the support of Napier University, Edinburgh and the MEDIA programme of the EU.


Site last updated: 10 October 2018