Watching TV yesterday I stumbled upon a great mountaintop removal film now airing on the Sundance channel. I recall hearing about "Burning the Future" last year while it was being filmed, but I hadn't realized it was out. This movie even features a cameo by NRDC's executive director, Peter Lehner, debunking the myth of "clean" coal.
As a service to movie buffs who want to witness the world's worst mining practice on the big screen, I hereby provide a roundup of all the movies I know out there that either touch or focus on mountaintop mining. Please don't consider this a comprehensive list by any means. In fact, if you know of any films that I neglect to mention, feel free to let me know!
"Black Diamonds: Mountaintop Removal and the Fight for Coalfield Justice"
Producer/Director: Catherine Pancake (Bullfrog Films)
Summary: Black Diamonds is an award-winning feature documentary exploring radical community resistance to the explosive rise of mountaintop removal coal mines in Appalachian states. The film illustrates in graphic detail the destructive effects of mountaintop removal seen through the eyes of local citizens, as well as national experts. When it was released in 2006, Black Diamonds was the first comprehensive overview of surface mining practices from the 1950s to the present. The film's approach includes a wide range of testimony from local citizens mixed with community meetings, and various dramatic turning-points including the disastrous 2001 floods, major MTR legal decisions, the tragic death of a child from an errant boulder dislodged from a strip mine site, safety issues at Marsh Fork Elementary, and the beginning civil disobediance push of Mountain Justice Summer.
Producer/Director: B.J. Gudmundsson
Summary: A Christians for the Mountains Feature Film confronts the abusive practice of Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining. Filmmaker B. J. Gudmundsson uses photography and personal stories to create an epiphany -- a personal awakening -- as nature's beauty is starkly contrasted with scenes of ruin. Powerful narration is supported by traditional gospel and Appalachian Music to tell this story of tragedy and hope. "Mountain Mourning" calls upon Christians and their churches to summons moral courage and effective advocacy that will bring healing and justice to this land and its people. (Run Time: 30 min)
"Rise Up! West Virginia"
Director: B.J. Gudmundsson (PatchWork Films)
Summary: Filmmaker B.J. Gudmundsson takes a personal journey from her life-long home in the eastern mountains of West Virginia to the southern coalfields of her beloved state. Once there, she joins the Mountain Keepers who have been fighting a 20-year battle to save their homes from the destructive practice of Mountaintop Removal coal mining. The stories of struggle and visions of hope open a door to the complex issue that is threatening the future of West Virginia.
"Kilowatt Ours: A Plan to Re-Energize America"
Producer/Director: Jeff Barrie
Summary: Filmmaker Jeff Barrie offers hope as he turns the camera on himself and asks, "How can I make a difference?" In his journey Barrie explores the source of our electricity and the problems caused by energy production including mountain top removal, childhood asthma and global warming. Along the way he encounters individuals, businesses, organizations, and communities who are leading the way, using energy conservation, efficiency and renewable, green power all while saving money and the environment.
"Crimes Against Nature"
Producer/Director: Angus Yates
Summary: The hard-hitting and refreshingly candid nonfiction feature film Crimes Against Nature, inspired by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s best-seller of the same title, details the systematic dismantling of America's environmental laws and policies by the Bush administration and its corporate cronies. Unfolding with the suspense of a classic crime story, this irreverent film exposes the shadowy interplay of people, places, memos, and meetings behind a corporate profit-grab that has gone largely unnoticed by the mainstream media and the American people. Blending investigative journalism with political satire and dark humor, the film tells the stories of average Americans victimized by corporate greed and political corruption.
"Mountain Top Removal"
Producer/Director: Michael Cusack O'Connell (Haw River Films)
Summary: This documentary explores how strip mining in West Virginia has affected local communities. Shot over two years, the film follows citizens and conservation groups as they oppose the coal industry's methods and toxic waste produced in the process of stripping the Appalachian mountaintops.
"Burning the Future: Coal in America"
Producer/Director: David Novack
Summary: Writer/director David Novack examines the explosive conflict between the coal industry and residents of West Virginia. Confronted by emerging "clean coal" energy policies, local activists watch a world blind to the devastation caused by coal's extraction. Faced with toxic ground water, the obliteration of 1.4 million acres of mountains, and a government that appeases industry, our heroes demonstrate a strength of purpose and character in their improbable fight to arouse the nation's help in protecting their mountains, saving their families, and preserving their way of life.
"MINE" (formerly Ghosts of Appalachia)
Co-Directors: Jennifer Gilomen & Sally Rubin
Released: (expected completion date August 2009) Screening Fall 2009
Summary: This documentary looks at the centuries-old complexities behind the fight for this black rock (coal) that fuels our nation. MINE follows several members of a community in Eastern Kentucky as their community and landscape begins to change dramatically through mining. By asking us to trace the power lines from our homes to people far removed from our daily lives, MINE inspires Americans to preserve Appalachia and our shared legacy.