Friday, July 10, 2009

'Coal Country' will premiere in W.Va. on Saturday

Alarm has turned to relief for advocates of the documentary Coal Country. After losing the original venue earlier this week, the film will premiere tomorrow at a free 8 p.m. screening at the Cultural Center theatre in the state Capitol Complex in Charleston, W. Va.

The 90-minute documentary has already received critical acclaim for its exploration of the controversy over mountaintop removal mining in Central Appalachia, Douglas Imbrogno reports for The Charleston Gazette. It takes an especially hard look at the transformation of average citizens such as Larry Gibson (wearing T-shirt in Gazette photo) into activists, and includes commentary from local residents to more famous people like singer Kathy Mattea, pictured. Imbrogno writes “because of the blasting away of mountains and the fouling of their land, as well as the plight of workers and families dependent on mining jobs,” some people once in favor of the industry have become disillusioned by its lingering effects.

Producer Mari-Lynn Evans, who produced the award-winning PBS documentary The Appalachians in 2005, takes pride in the film’s objectivity, and says the decision of South Charleston Museum to cancel the screening this week was a shock. "Everyone is completely confounded because this film does show both sides,” she told Imbrogno. “I think people just need to see the film." Museum administrators say the move was prompted by not wanting to be associated with such a controversial event.

Coal Country will air on PBS this fall or winter, and Imbrogno reports it has been accepted as a finalist in the prestigious Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, one of three films in the "Best Conservation Program" category. Evans expects a varoed audience at Saturday’s premiere, including coal activists and supporters. "I'm hoping from the premiere what I've always hoped -- that people will watch this film and it will help them understand the issue of coal and mountaintop removal mining and what it means, especially in Appalachia." (Read more; watch trailer)

1 comment:

Al Cross said...

Jack Wright of Ohio University posts on Appalnet:

In attending the premiere public screening of "Coal Country" last Saturday night at the WV Cultural Center in Charleston I was struck with how misunderstood both sides are (though I hesitate to call workers that do Mountaintop Removal coal miners.)

It was a full house in a 461 seat house with about 200 turned away.
The movie brought 2 sides together in the same auditorium but there was little common ground because of the film subject. However, it was a beginning point.

Afterward, there was a small confrontation of sorts outside that the state troopers quickly broke up but there was no serious dialog that I picked up on-only 2 sides jeering and re-enforcing points of view.

In fact, Mari-Lynn Evans, producer of the film, stated publicly that the one coal company that agreed to be in the film was the only one that would agree to do so. This film is a start.

Now, leadership could foster a dialog, but who dares to lead? It takes time & effort & above all, fortitude and desire.

Perhaps on some issues there can never be agreement but on some there can be education.

One worker sitting in front of me during the movie jumped in glee when a scene of reclaimed land (it had something green growing on it) came up. He said, "There are my cattle!" Apparently he was proud that a part of him was in the movie.