Black Diamonds

Movie Information

Genre: Documentary
Director: Catherine Pancake
Starring: Julia Bonds, Ken Hechler, Bill Maxey, Maria Gunnoe
Rated: NR

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

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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