May 29, 2018  (Web Review)

Metal Road

(2017) 27 min. DVD: $24.95 ($150 w/PPR). Vision Maker Media (www.visionmaker.org). Closed captioned.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Offering a brief look at the history of Navajo workers building and repairing railroad tracks around the U.S., Metal Road is an engaging documentary that intertwines a chapter of American labor history with an ongoing story of Native American involvement in building the nation’s infrastructure. Filmmaker Sarah Del Seronde introduces viewers to the 9001 Heavy Steel Gang, which has its roots in the 19th century and for the most part has largely been comprised of Navajo men. Del Seronde spends time with several Navajo members of the 9001, learning that railroad repair work has been so consistent for so long that generations of men from the same families have succeeded one another on the team. Beginning each workday with spirit-lifting howls, the 9001 sets about the hard, physically demanding work of keeping tracks safe and functional in extreme weather conditions. Combining interviews with fly-on-the-wall observations, Metal Road tells a little-known story. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (T. Keogh)