MOVIES | “The Red Tail” depicts the NWA strike of 2005 and its ongoing repercussions


Last year, local filmmakers Dawn Mikkelson and Melissa Koch took their documentary The Red Tail, on the aftermath of the 444-day Northwest Airlines strike in 2005, across the world. They hosted successful screenings at several international film festivals, including a sold-out Minneapolis premiere. The Red Tail debuted in the Twin Cities last year at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival and is back for one night only—February 24—at the Riverview Theater.

The film centers on the protests by Northwest employees against 53% job cuts, 26% wage reductions, and cuts to benefits and pensions, as seen through the eyes of the Koch family. Koch’s father, a mechanic for Northwest, lost his job, prompting his daughter Melissa to document the fallout and exactly how her family was affected. Mechanics’ and otherss jobs were outsourced to China, and with them went the filmmakers.

Along with co-director Mikkelson, Koch documented the process of travelling to Hong Kong to see first-hand the effects of such dramatic job loss. The film became a revealing look into another dark side of globalization, and was a hit on the festival circuit.

“The aftershocks of the Northwest Airlines labor disaster are still being felt in the Twin Cities and we wanted to share The Red Tail once again with the community most directly impacted by this story,” says Koch. “We see this event as an opportunity to bring people from different communities together to spark ongoing dialogues about labor issues in Minnesota.”

Another factor in the decision to hold another screening was the film’s local popularity. “Our only other screening in the Twin Cities was sold out last April,” adds Mikkelson. “We’ve been getting inquiries all year and really wanted to hold a screening for the larger community that couldn’t get in last time.”

She and Koch have remained busy promoting the film since then, with plans to continue on the road later in the year: “We’ve started scheduling a tour that will begin this fall around the country in collaboration with colleges, universities, and NGOs.” The film is also being distributed independently through DVD sales, video on demand, and a DVD distribution deal in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Joining the filmmakers at the screening will be Minnesota state senators Savteer Chaudhary and Scott Dibble, Peter Rachleff from Macalester College, and the Koch family. After the film, they’ll be talking about the future of the Minnesota worker, giving present-day context to the events depicted in The Red Tail. In solidarity with the striking SEIU janitors, Koch and Mikkelson will also be extending a special discount to those involved in the strike, and invite representatives to participate in the discussion.