If you want to spend an hour and a half watching people who are royally screwed, look no further than the new documentary Blood on the Mountain. Directors Mari-Lynn Evans and Jordan Freeman make the case that there hasn’t been a state that’s gotten the shaft (pardon the pun) more than the Mountain State.
You’ll more than likely agree as you see how the coal industry has hollowed West Virginia into a shell. Their movie chronicles the 150 years’ worth of disaster Big Coal has wreaked on the land: explosions, floods that washed communities away, accidents resulting in permanent damage or death, black lung, corrupt government officials, corrupt companies, loss of pensions when companies folded, and on and on, right up to Charleston’s recent, Flint-style situation in which a chemical company contaminated its drinking water.
Through archival footage and interviews with experts, historians and many locals, this doc chronicles the long, tumultuous history between West Virginians and the coal industry, one that eventually kicked the state’s citizens to the curb — but only after leveling mountaintops.
While those outside West Virginia may be inclined to ask why people still live there, more understanding people will realize that, as much as Big Coal basically gutted the place, it’s still their home. As consistently depressing as this movie is, it thankfully shows you that before you dismiss the denizens of an entire region as poor white trash, you should listen to their story.
Blood on the Mountain
Directed by Mari-Lynn Evans and Jordan Freeman
Opens November 18, Landmark Sunshine
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 16, 2016