To Save the Land & the People
Directed by Anne Lewis, 58 min. (1999)
Strip or “surface” mining—where coal is blasted and scraped from the mountain surface—increased dramatically in the Appalachian region in 1961 when the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) signed contracts to buy more than 16 million tons of strip-mined coal. Though cheaper for the buyer than deep mined coal, the damage done by strip mining was far reaching and had immediate impact on coalfield residents.
To Save the Land and People is a history of the early grassroots efforts to stop strip mining in eastern Kentucky, where “broad form” deeds, signed at the beginning of the 20th Century, were used by coal operators to destroy the surface land without permission or compensation of the surface owner. The program focuses on the Appalachian Group to Save the Land and People, whose members used every means possible—from legal petitions and local ordinances, to guns and dynamite—to fight strip mining. The documentary makes a powerful statement about the land and how we use it, and how its misuse conflicts with local cultures and values.
The film tells the story of resistance in the voices of people who were directly involved and demonstrates the creativity and energy that indigenous and working class people bring to the environmental justice movement.
The Electricity Fairy
Directed by Tom Hansell, 60 min. (2008)
“They reach out and flip the switch and the light comes on. Well, there’s not a magic electricity fairy. That electricity comes from a power plant that feeds on coal.”
– Eugene Mooney, former head of the Kentucky Department for Natural Resources
Coal produces half of America’s electricity, according to the Federal Department of Energy. The energy policy currently before Congress identifies coal as a key to America’s “energy independence.” The Electricity Fairy is a documentary that examines America’s national addiction to fossil fuels through the lens of electricity. Appalshop Filmmaker Tom Hansell follows the story of a proposed coal-fired power plant in the mountains of southwest Virginia, connecting the local controversy to the national debate over energy policy.
Novelist Karen Salyer McElmurray
Berea alumna Karen McElmurray will be on campus Monday, Feb. 22. She’s reading at Dinner on the Grounds, Appalachian Center Gallery, 11:45-1 p.m., and leading a fiction-writing workshop 4-5 p.m. in Draper 307. Both events are free and open to the public. Books will be available for purchase at both events. Karen’s visit is sponsored by English/Theater/Speech Communication Dept., Appalachian Center, and Learning Center.
Karen Salyer McElmurray’s newest novel is The Motel of the Stars (Sarabande Books). The novel has been nominated for The Weatherford Prize in Fiction, was a Lit Life Novel of the Year for 2008 and was named Editor’s Pick by Oxford American. She is also the author of Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother’s Journey, recipient of the AWP Award for Creative Nonfiction, as well as Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven, winner of the Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing. Associate Professor in Creative Writing at Georgia College and State University, McElmurray is Creative Nonfiction Editor for Arts and Letters: A Journal of Contemporary Culture.
Strangers and Kin: A History of the Hillbilly Image
Directed by Herb E. Smith, 60 min. (1984)
Using funny, often poignant examples, Strangers and Kin shows the development and effect of stereotypes as technological change collides with tradition in the Southern mountains. The film traces the evolution of the “hillbilly” image through Hollywood films, network news and entertainment shows, dramatic renderings of popular literature, and interviews with contemporary Appalachians to demonstrate how stereotypes are created, reinforced, and often used to rationalize exploitation. The film suggests how a people can embrace modernity without becoming “strangers to their kin.”
Directed by Robert Salyer, 45 min. (2006)
Shortly after midnight on October 11, 2000, a coal sludge pond in Martin County, Kentucky, broke through an underground mine, propelling 306 million gallons of sludge down two tributaries of the Tug Fork River into the Big Sandy. The Martin County sludge spill killed all aquatic life along 30 miles of river, damaged municipal water systems, and caused millions of dollars in property damage.
Appalshop filmmaker Robert Salyer follows the government agencies and community members through their cleanup efforts and their attempts to understand the causes of a disaster thirty times larger than the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Filmed over four years, the documentary chronicles the aftermath of the disaster, the Mine Safety and Health Administration “whistleblower” case of Jack Spadaro, and the looming threat of coal sludge ponds throughout the Appalachian mountains.