H - 2 Worker

Director: Stephanie Black

Institute History

  • 1990 Sundance Film Festival


H-2 Worker is the first visual documentation of the ten thousand plus Caribbean men who are flown to Florida to harvest sugar cane each year under a temporary guestworker ("H-2") visa. The laborers are only allowed to remain in the U.S. during the time of their employment, after which they must return home. They are not permitted to seek other work, leave their work camps for more than twenty-four hours, or seek permanent stains. Wages are less than $1.50 an hour, despite federal regulations, because employers deduct room and board and "mandatory savings" from their salaries. However, as nonresidents, they receive no labor protection, thus creating a program of legalized peonage.

In the tradition of Upton Sinclair, Stephanie Black directs a devastating indictment at sugar-plantation practices and the government-sponsored H-2 program. Unflinching in its investigation, the film uncovers the way Jamaican workers are systematically exploited and discarded in a manner reminiscent of the 1920s. The film clandestinely follows a season in the lives of the men, who arrive with hopes and dreams of betterment, only to find them squelched by the inequitable institutionalized labor practices of the sugar industry, a brutal sugar harvest and demeaning living conditions. Interviews with workers and employers stress what is implied to the workers about the job versus what is actually offered. But the greatest impact is made by poignant voice-overs of personal letters between the workers and their families, counterpointed with images of their monotonous and hazardous lives.

Saturday, January 20 10:30 p.m.
Holiday Village Cinema I

Tuesday, January 23 10:00 a.m.
Egyptian Theatre

Wednesday, January 24 1:00 p.m.
Holiday Village Cinema III

Saturday, January 21 1:30 p.m.
Holiday Village Cinema I


Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards


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