Michael C. O’Connell of Haw River Films has created an excellent new
film about the environmental devastation known as “mountaintop removal
mining.” In less than an hour a viewer sees both the pro and con, the
natives who are affected and the New York City writers who all have very
definite opinions about the American way of producing electricity.
One of the best things about this film is that pro-coal experts like
Bill Raney, the president of the WV Coal Association, have their say –
and experts tell viewers the scientific truths which directly contradict
This film is a welcome addition to other environmental films on MTR
including Robert Gates’ two films, “All Shaken Up” and “Mucked,” Sasha
Water’s “Razing Appalachia,” Catherine Pancake’s “Black Diamonds,”
“Moving Mountains” by Pa. school kids and B.J. Gudmundsson and Allen
Johnson’s “Mountain Mourning.” I know of three other films on the
subject that I look forward to watching.
There is an impressive list of experts including the well-known
activists Larry Gibson, Julia Bonds, Maria Gunnoe, Allen Johnson and Ed
Wiley, the grandfather of a girl who attends Marsh Fork Elementary. The
experts include Jeff Gould who wrote the cover story for the NY Times
Sunday magazine and then “Big Coal,” Dr. Ben Stuart, a Ph.D. from
Wheeling Jesuit University, Dr. Schiffin from Williamson, a MD who cares
for the residents injured by the pollution caused there by MTR, and Dr.
Peter Huff from Duke. These interviews add great weight to the argument
that the people of Appalachia are truly losing their health and
environment in horrible ways not described by Mr. Rainey.
The single biggest hero of this film is Ed Wiley who is shown meeting
with Gov. Manchin and marching from Charleston to Washington, DC to
promote awareness of what is happening to his grandchild and all of the
children attended the threatened grade school. The next biggest hero is
Larry Gibson who is shown leading a march to a second family cemetery
already surrounded by the huge MTR site so well known to activists. I
have not seen it before, but the large group that had to walk over
company land to gain access to the second family cemetery is a truly
poignant reminder of what is being lost.
Several other pro-MTR people are also interviewed including one man who
says that it is dangerous for “outsiders” to “interfere.” His comments
really reminded me of the people interviewed for “Eyes on the Prize” and
other Sixties documentaries on the race war that engulfed the South. One
activist indeed talks about the “all out war” that is now taking place
in Appalachia – and thanks to publications such as Vanity Fair, The US
News (both criticized by Raney), the NY Times and many other national
publications and all of the films on MTR, national and international
awareness is finally being achieved.
I particularly enjoyed the soundtrack of this film that includes music
by Donna the Buffalo, Julie Miller, John Specker and Sarah Hawkes.
Hopefully Haw River Films will release it as a CD. This is no accident
since they earlier produced a film, “Grass Roots Stages” about a large
number of musicians including Donna the Buffalo (who recently visited
Charleston.) Other films they have produced include “Art in Motion,”
Haw River Films is located in Pittsboro, North Carolina. You can
purchase a copy of the film from them for $20. Visit their website at -
To visit the WV Coal Association website - http://www.wvcoal.com/index.asp.
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