I tend to be a hard sell on social-conscience-driven documentaries, even while I recognize the often noble intentions behind them. Perhaps it’s because I see too many of them over the course of the year. By the time I finish watching the collected films for the Amnesty International Film Festival, the sensory overload sometimes makes me feel like going out and oppressing a Third World country. So when I say that Catherine Pancake’s documentary depicting both the ecological and cultural impact of mountaintop-removal coal mining is a piece of powerful, almost incendiary filmmaking, you know I feel I have seen something remarkably good and effective.
No, it may not be the “Harlan County, U.S.A.” of the 21st Century, as claimed on the DVD case, but neither is that a gross exaggeration. It’s clear-headed, persuasive and it wisely allows the mining company spokesmen to hang themselves. A truly strong film about an important issue that needs to be better known.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke