A richly detailed, compelling and comprehensive four-part documentary, Appalachia: A History of Mountains and People comes to town this week. The series—slated to run on PBS—takes a unique look at the history of Appalachia. Its four sections—“Time and Terrain,” “New Green World,” “Mountain Revolutions” and “Power and Place”—trace the region from its geological beginnings to the modern day and the current threats posed to Appalachia. As filmmaking, it’s a straightforward work that might have benefited from a little more creativity in the editing (there are some scenes where the use of classical music on the soundtrack cries out for a more rhythmic approach). But this is really a minor quibble considering the sheer scope of the project, which takes in so many aspects of the region, blending science, natural history, arts and culture. This isn’t a simple look at any single part, but attempts to paint an authoritative picture of the whole. And overall, it succeeds admirably. Mixing archival photos and footage with often breathtaking images of the mountains and interviews with a variety of experts—Pulitzer Prize-winning biologist E.O. Wilson, novelist Barbara Kingsolver etc.—the film by director Ross Spears and cowriter Jamie Ross presents a wholly credible and marvelously insightful look at Appalachia in all its diversity.
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