Closer than you think

On Coal River, the new documentary by Asheville-based filmmakers Francine Cavanaugh and Adams Wood, shows that North Carolina is the largest consumer of coal in the United States. The film shows how the mining industry has negatively affected residents in the Appalachian region.

But Cavanaugh and Woods are optimistic over the possibilities of change in energy policies. "We're excited about using the film to highlight Asheville and North Carolina and the region's potential to take a leadership role in what happens with our energy consumption,” the filmmakers told Xpress. “North Carolina is No. 1 right now with MTR coal usage, but we are also home to alternative-energy ideas and companies, nonprofits and legislators."

Massey Energy, the largest producer of coal in the Southeast, provides jobs and, for many, a cultural identity. The film captures the intimate effects of mining — and its environmental hazard — through the lives of four working-class residents struggling to save their families and maintain a sense of place in the face of the destruction caused by mountain top removal.

“We were startled by the pictures and descriptions of [mountaintop removal], and we were also really shocked by our own ignorance – at that point, we didn’t even know where our electricity came from,” the filmmakers stated in an interview with Indie Film Magazine. “Something about the concept of mountaintop removal really grabbed us though — maybe because mountains usually serve as metaphors for something that will endure much longer than we humans will.”

A sense of hope in the face of big business is what led Cavanaugh and Woods to emphasize the “hope aspect” in the film, as they discussed in the Indie Film interview. “Later we read an article about a grassroots environmental group called Coal River Mountain Watch, and we took a trip up to Coal River Valley where we met group members Bo Webb, Judy Bonds, Patty Sebok and Maria Gunnoe.

“These folks were taking on a powerful industry, and dealing with constant crises. They were doing it with a sense of humor and spirit that was really inspiring.”

who: On Coal River, a film by Francine Cavanaugh and Adams Wood
what: Special Asheville Screenings sponsored by The Media Arts Project, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, WNC Alliance and SouthWings
where: Fine Arts Theater
when: Wednesday, Oct. 20, 7 p.m. (with introduction by Representative Susan Fisher, followed by Director Q&A.
Thursday, Oct. 21, 7 p.m. (Special fundraiser screening followed by an energy panel moderated by David Hurand, host of "Conversations" on WCQS. Featuring Adams Wood and Francine Cavanaugh, Bo Webb from Coal River Valley, W.Va., and Ulla Reeves, program director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. Proceeds will benefit environmental programs at Marsh Fork Elementary School in West Virginia.
Saturday, Oct. 23, 1 p.m. (followed by director Q&A)

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