I confess that when I first heard about the existence of another documentary about mountain-top-removal mining, I groaned, thinking that surely I must have reviewed this at some point in the past. But no, I hadn’t, and local filmmakers Francine Cavanaugh and Adams Wood’s On Coal River turned out to be a good bit more than “another documentary” on this subject. Not only is it better made than any other I’ve seen, but it also puts a more human face on the subject. It manages the not inconsiderable feat of not just being upsetting, but moving. Moreover, it points to our complicity in this by noting that North Carolina is the number-one consumer of energy generated by coal mined in this fashion. This is a wholly admirable effort—and one that has not gone unnoticed. While I was writing this little review, it was officially announced that On Coal River has been named one of five nominees for “Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You” by the Gotham Film Awards in New York City. Only, of course, in our case, it is playing at a theater near us.
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