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The Austin Disaster 1911:
A Chronicle of Human Character
(1999, 91 min. Written and directed by Gale Largey; narrated by Willie Nelson)
In 1911 Austin, Pennsylvania was flooded due to the collapse of a dam built to serve the town's large paper mill, killing 72 people, many of whom were trying to save the lives of others. Moving across the town's earliest wooded beginning to its fiercely industrial urbanity, Austin, within the context of apathy and tragedy, is revealed through a rich interplay of narration, interviews, and detailed photographs. The film explores the social environment of Industrial America in the early 1900's with its rapidly shifting commercial interests, increasing immigration and severe tensions between factory owners and the working class. Turning on the tragic pivot of the flood, a portrait of an American community is etched starkly with the character of its people made plain in the receding waters.