Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Taking on the coal industry

Posted By on Wed, Nov 3, 2010 at 4:39 PM

In anticipation of the Independent Film Society of Colorado's free, Nov. 11 screenings of Deep Down in Colorado College's Cornerstone Screening Room, I watched a press copy of the film last night.

It's a tight, nearly hour-long documentary centered around the embattled mining process of mountaintop removal. The story is set in rural Kentucky, where native citizen Beverly May, whose family roots run deep in the area, helps organize the fight against a local coal mine initiative.

Another central character, financially struggling carpenter and landowner Terry Ratliff, for much of the film remains on the fence in terms of how he views the industry. On one hand, he could sell mining rights to a parcel of his land and obtain some much-needed cash — if the company actually keeps its word and doesn't declare bankruptcy prior to payday, as other companies allegedly have done. On the other hand, he'd watch the sightly forest directly outside his cabin blasted and devastated.

Mining — not so pretty when you take a good look at it.
  • Mining — not so pretty when you take a good look at it.

I won't spoil the outcome of the fight, which is what most of the film drives at via footage from community meetings as well as pensive interviews with the concerned town residents. I will say that the film is well-constructed, with a nice Appalachian music score (May is a musician, beyond a health care worker for the underserved) and simple, heartfelt storytelling.

This isn't a documentary with fast edits or cutesy CGI segments or cartoon illustrations. This is just people laying out their real emotions around a topic that really affects everyone outside of their community as much as them in terms of looking at our nation's future energy strategy. It doesn't so much cast good guy and bad guy characters as show that people are just trying to get by and feed their families, a need that must be weighed against environmental degradation. Viewers will likely side with May in the fight, but won't help but be able to sympathize with Ratliff and even some of the miners, who are just cogs on an ugly machine, but people too, in need of work.

Watch a trailer for the film here:
http://www-tc.pbs.org/video/media/swf/PBSPlayer.swf" >

Watch the full episode. See more Independent Lens.


If you can't make the free showing at CC, the film will also play as part of PBS's Independent Lens series on Nov. 23.

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