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Mountain Movies: Documentaries Made in the Appalachians

on-coal-river_fix-copyOn Coal River
In this upcoming documentary, meet four different people who live in the Coal River Valley of southern West Virginia. They’ve had their lives changed forever by the devastating effects of mountaintop removal mining in their backyard. Ed Wiley is a former mine inspector whose granddaughter has been sickened by a coal processing plant next door to her elementary school. Coal miner’s daughter Judy Bonds has lost her land that goes back eight generations, but she has stayed in the area to run a rigorous grassroots campaign against mountaintop mining, even if it means consistent threats from her neighbors. Bo Webb returns to Coal River to retire peacefully after years working in the city, but finds a strip mine site in his backyard. And Maria Lambert is working to secure clean water in her community, which is being poisoned by underground slurry injections. While Appalachia’s most bio-diverse landscapes are gradually being destroyed for cheap access to coal, these people are fighting for immediate survival.

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea
In September, PBS will air Ken Burns’ latest historical epic—a 12-part series about our National Park System. If you watched his takes on Baseball, Jazz, or The Civil War, you know that Burns’ documentaries provide exhaustive details and stunning visuals. Ten years in the making, the film explores the challenges and successes of the National Park System, with in-depth focus on the Great Smokies.

Food, Inc.
Get the grim scoop on Big Ag, commercial pesticide use, and cloning the perfect pork chop, as filmmaker Robert Kenner delivers a shocking expose on the realties of the American food industry with help from authors Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) and Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto). The documentary also prominently features famous holistic farmer Joel Salatin of Shenandoah Valley’s Polyface Farm.

On October, 11 2000, a coal slurry containment pond in Martin County, Ky., broke through an underground mine, unleashing over 300 million gallons of toxic sludge and polluting hundreds of miles of local waterways. Residents quickly saw their backyard creeks turn black with industrial waste. This film examines the devastating effects, as well as the federal government’s highly controversial response to the incident. Don’t think this 2005 film is still relevant? Ask residents of Harriman, Tenn., who were deluged with a coal ash pond spill last December.

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