An American coal story in 3 acts
Follows a community devastated by coal, starting with American Electric Power's buyout and bulldozing of this Ohio River town, after exposing them to years of harmful emissions.
Directed by Eve Morgenstern
Produced by Eve Morgenstern, Kim Connell
Editor: Kim Connell
Director of Photography: Katherine Patterson
Additional Cinematography: Eve Morgenstern
Senior Story Consultant: Judith Helfand
Music: Red Hooker
Produced by Evenfall LLC and Rainlake Productions in association with Chicken & Egg Pictures
A gun toting 83-year old woman refuses to sell her house to the power plant next door but the plant has moved ahead with their 20 million dollar deal to buy out most of Cheshire and bulldoze all the homes. What happened in this Ohio River town overrun by one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the world? A story of money, power and the increasingly difficult choices we face surrounding coal and the environment, CHESHIRE, OHIO makes us think twice about home.
"A truly eye-opening film behind a dark chapter in American history, the takeover of small, rural towns by coal-fired power plants." Mark Jacobson, Prof. Environmental Engineering, Stanford U
Filmed over a decade, CHESHIRE, OHIO follows a community devastated by coal, starting with American Electric Power's buyout and bulldozing of this Ohio River community after exposing them to harmful emissions, and then returning several years later to the now almost emptied town as we follow the case of 77 plaintiffs who have filed a lawsuit against American Electric Power for cancer and other diseases they developed from working unprotected at the plant's coal ash landfill site.
As the cycle of pollution from coal continues, we see how one quintessential American town suffers from our reliance on carbon energy.
Grade Level: 7 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2017
Copyright Date: 2017
DVD ISBN: 1-941545-90-4
"A truly eye-opening film behind a dark chapter in American history, the takeover of small, rural towns by coal-fired power plants and the resulting pollution and social damage they cause, with Cheshire, Ohio as the example. I highly recommend this film."
Mark Jacobson, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Director, Atmosphere/Energy Program, Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University
"A vital film...shows firsthand the human cost of dirty energy. It is a harrowing and compelling story that hammers home the point: coal kills, fossil fuel companies care more about profit than people, and now more than ever, we need to pay attention to the true stories of our frontline communities."
Bruce Nilles, Beyond Coal Campaign, Sierra Club
"Cheshire, Ohio is a story of Appalachia, of power and control by American Electric Power, disregard for the community and people of Cheshire, and in essence, the region and beyond...The story is a personal one, so much that you know the residents and in essence become a resident. This film is timely...As a resident of the region and an environmental studies instructor this film is invaluable. Stories of extractive industries modeling realities and the people who live these stories greatly need documentation. Cheshire, Ohio brings this Appalachian Ohio reality to the screen."
Loraine McCosker, Environmental Studies, Ohio University
"Cheshire, Ohio is a tough but moving film about the death knell of a formerly beautiful Midwestern village, brought to its knees by the toxicity of a power plant. A contemporary American Tragedy, the film is powerfully told by director Morgenstern, who evokes the innocence of town dwellers in places like Cheshire - and what happens to them when big business betrays them."
Marc Glassman, Planet In Focus Environmental Film Festival
"Cheshire, Ohio is a jarring examination of the gulf between civic rights and corporate responsibility in the United States of America. It captures both the resilience of communities in the face of uncertainty and the certainties of governmental indifference to communities when pitted against powerful business interests...Fundamentally, this documentary asks how long we can accept and externalize these travesties in exchange for fossil fuel-based energy."
Dr. William Schumann, Associate Professor and Director, Center of Appalachian Studies, Appalachian State University, Editor, Engaging Appalachia: Building Capacity for Sustainability (forthcoming)
"Stunning...This affecting film will stay with viewers as it informs them about the dangers of coal burning power plants. For middle and high school students studying environmental science and most public libraries."
Constance Dickerson, School Library Journal
"A moving and sensitive treatment of an issue of national significance - the true cost of coal. The film beautifully captures the issue on a human scale with the poignant story of the cost borne by one small American town that lost everything. An important cautionary tale bravely told by those who refuse to surrender."
Lisa Evans, Senior Counsel, Earthjustice
"In the developed world, we have the luxury of rarely considering from where our energy comes. Cheshire, Ohio pulls back the curtain with a meticulous, personal portrait of normal Americans living normal lives only to slowly learn that they are being subjected to toxic fallout from coal burning at a local electricity plant. It is a chance for all of us to draw from the lessons that have been hard-learned by the residents of Cheshire - a real place with real problems. Cheshire, Ohio is a grassroots story of the mechanisms necessary to achieve environmental justice and the expectation of a healthy living environment for humans."
Dr. Brian Black, Professor, History and Environmental Studies, Pennsylvania State University - Altoona, Editor, Energy and Society
"Cheshire, Ohio provides a powerful insight into a rural community being torn apart by fossil fuel pollution...This documentary explores the dirty aftermath, and what comes next, when the air is no longer safe to breathe. It really brings home the experience and consequences of living with serious air pollution, with stories and characters that stay with you long after the film has ended"
Clare Lakewood, Staff Attorney, Climate Law Institute, Center for Biological Diversity
"This disturbing example of the destruction of one small town by big business is a surefire discussion starter."
Candace Smith, Booklist
"Cheshire, Ohio is a captivating and unsettling tale of rural environmental injustice. This film weaves together local voices to reveal the personal sacrifices made for the sake of employment and the love of one's home-place. Highly recommended for communities and classrooms looking to learn more about the social ramifications of fossil fuel energy development and the limits of environmental regulation and litigation."
Elyzabeth W. Engle, Rural Sociology and Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and Environment, The Pennsylvania State University
"Cheshire's story is singular and yet all too common. While there's no other example of a company buying out an entire town, the impacts of coal pollution, and the challenges those still residing in Cheshire face, are a daily reality for far too many communities across coal country in Ohio and the rest of the country. Cheshire, Ohio is a lesson, a warning, and a reminder."
Neil Waggoner, Beyond Coal Campaign, Sierra Club
"This film is a moving meditation on the human cost of our nation's dependence on coal. The story it tells is a simple yet compelling one, with energy conglomerate American Electric Power set against the Cheshire community. Undoubtedly, the documentary will work well for both classroom use and activist organizing."
Chad Montrie, Professor of U.S. Environmental and Social History, University of Massachusetts - Lowell, Author, The Myth of Silent Spring: Rethinking the Origins of American Environmentalism
"This film shows in striking human terms why we must move quickly to clean energy. No other community should suffer as this one has. We have to produce energy in a way that does not make people sick, pollute our air, or produce millions of tons of waste containing toxins."
Mr. Frank Holleman, Senior Attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center
DVD includes SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and scene selection.
The Film's Website
The Producer's Website
Awards and Festivals
First Place Documentary Feature, Knoxville Film Festival
Special Jury Award, Frozen River Film Festival
Free Press Award, Columbus International Film & Video Festival
Sir Edmund Hillary Award, The Mountain Film Festival Awards
Docs for Sale, IDFA, Amsterdam
Cleveland International Film Festival
Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival
San Francisco Green Film Festival
Green Film Festival in Seoul
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... more Reviews
"It would be interesting to see if director Eva Morgenstern could track down some of the people she interviewed in their new digs and ask them what they think of Trump's EPA director...I strongly suspect that they would be part of the 67 percent of Americans who do not approve of the White House today."
Louis Proyect, CounterPunch
"This disclosing documentary depicts the violence of big capital...The influence of the plant named after a war hero unpleasantly symbolizes the changed values in the world...The fight is still on, but it's sad to realize our lives are already too dependent on the logic and convenience of capitalism."
Seol Suan, Green Film Festival in Seoul, South Korea
"Morgenstern looks at the creation of a modern day ghost town subtly, allowing the audience to raise the obvious questions without having everything spelled out for them...It's a work of great empathy and righteous anger."
Andrew Parker, Film Reviewer, The GATE (Toronto)
"The village of Cheshire, Ohio was aptly named. It was a place of gradual disappearances, small erosions of land and people and old songs, of ways of living and doing. Above its remnants, in the form of an immense smokestack, hangs the large and profitable smirk of the American Electric Power Corporation...The lesson here is quiet brutality, deregulation and eminent domain."
Martin Billheimer, Counterpunch
"Reveal[s] the difficult choices people must make about the source of their electric power and its relationship to their home-place. It shows what it's like to stay indoors to avoid a dark toxic cloud coming from their local coal-fired power plant and to face the buy-out and bulldozing of the community by the large power company; to lose friends and co-workers to cancer after working at the coal ash landfill; and yet depend on that company for their jobs."
Frozen River Film Festival Juror