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Razing Appalachia

Explores the controversial issue of mountaintop removal mining by following a grassroots fight to stop the process in West Virginia.

A printer-friendly version of this page 54 minutes
Closed Captioned

Directed by Sasha Waters
Produced by Room 135 Productions

"Quietly heartbreaking..." Mother Jones
In the misty folds of the Appalachian mountains lies Pigeonroost Hollow, in Blair, West Virginia. With its narrow creek and crawdads, its wild ginseng and raccoons, Pigeonroost looks as it might have a century ago -- a woody haven tucked away from time and technology. But for how long? And at what price?

In May 1998, Arch Coal, Inc. announced it would expand its Dal-Tex strip mine just above the small town of Blair. But lifetime residents said too many had already been bought out or chased away by the giant mine, and that Arch Coal's planned expansion was the final threat to their once-tranquil way of life. Forty families -- where there were once 300 -- stayed in Blair.

RAZING APPALACHIA is the story of their remarkable fight -- against the second-largest coal company in America, against the know-nothing state political leaders and, unhappily, against the 400 union miners whose jobs were on the line.

Grade Level: 7-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2003     Copyright Date: 2003
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-109-6     VHS ISBN: 1-56029-993-2

"Without wielding a heavy hand, Sasha Waters's conveyed clearly: for viewers to understand what it means to have one's homeplace on the line...and what it means to have a community divided by the threat of removal of either courting sites, cemeteries, and homes, or the best-paying jobs in the region... A point to be appreciated about this film is that it does not pit the landholders against the miners, but instead shows many ways that they constitute the same community being presented with a dilemma through the logic of global capitalist development... Razing Appalachia shows how the contradiction between the preservation of 'place' as a site for the construction of community, memory, and livelihood and the permanent alteration of that place through extractive industries - a theme with much resonance - plays out in Blair, West Virginia... the issues discussed in this film linkthe workers and residents of Pigeonroost Hollow with those in many other places."
Ann Kingsolver, Univ. of South Carolina for Anthropology of Work Review

"A competent and even-handed look at yet another frontier where corporate interests are wreaking havoc on U.S. natural resources...Sasha Waters takes care to let all sides be heard, though inevitably most viewers will react strongest to the appalling sight of once-beautiful, now permanently 'decapitated' Appalachian hills."

"Quietly heartbreaking..."
Mother Jones

"A good example of what makes public TV valuable...the product of an individual vision...unlikely to air anywhere else."
The New Yorker

"Vividly demonstrates that environmental regulatory and land use issues can be both highly complex and multi-dimensional. This splendidly objective film illustrates that dominant issues driving many modern environmental disputes tend to be more gray than either black or white."
Stuart Lieberman, Esq., Partner, Lieberman and Blecher--specializing in environmental law

"Highly Recommended...A serious, balanced documentary about an urgent issue affecting parts of Appalachia, mountaintop removal...Multiple viewpoints, including miners, mine owners, environmentalists and residents, are objectively presented in this the film progresses, the well integrated, structured framework emerges...From the heart of Appalachia, I highly recommend this interesting, timely and important film."
Educational Media Reviews Online, Charles Burkart, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV

"Conveys the complexity of the issue...This powerful document conveys the emotional impact this fight has had on all concerned. Photography, sound, and editing are well done, and the variety of individuals interviewed contributes to the successful picture of a community divided by these issues. Highly recommended"
Library Journal

"Giv[es] voice to representatives of different sides of a bitter and agonizing debate...highly successful at simultaneously engaging the senses...the emotions, and the intellect. I strongly recommend [Razing Appalachia] for the ethnographic glimpse of this segment of Americana and for the discussion it will stimulate."
Jim Weil, Anthropology of Work Review

"Offers an in-depth look at the turbulent history of the region...It is impossible not to get angry at the absence of interest in Washington for bringing jobs, educational opportunities and economic diversity to Appalachia."
Phil Hall, Film Threat

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Links lens/razingappalachia The film's web site The producer's web site
Study guide

Awards and Festivals
National PBS Broadcast on "Independent Lens"
First Prize, The Institute for Rural Poverty, Farmington, ME
Best Environmental Film, Vermont International Film Festival
Special Jury Prize in Documentary, Cinevue International Film Festival
Honorable Mention, EarthVision Environmental Film Festival
Honorable Mention, Rural Route Film Festival
Nashville Independent Film Festival, Nashville, TN
Tahoe International Film Festival
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
United Nations Association Film Festival, Stanford
Ojai Film Festival, Ojai, CA
Pennsylvania Film Festival, Scranton, PA
Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival
American Conservation Film Festival
Semarang International Film Festival, Semarang, Indonesia
Woodstock Film Festival
Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival
Cucalorus Film Festival, Wilmington, NC
Valleyfest Independent Film Festival, Knoxville, TN
Downstream International Film Festival, Gainesville, GA
International Working Class Film & Video Festival, San Francisco, CA
Wild and Scenic Film Festival
Memphis Digital Arts Co-Op Digital Festival, Memphis, TN
Great Lakes Film Festival, Erie, PA
Peace & Human Security Media Festival, New York, NY
Eye of the Beholder Film Festival, Asheville, NC
Flooded Out Film Festival, Charleston, WV
American Rivers, Washington, DC
The Appalachian Center of Berea College,Berea, KY
West Virginia Coal Summit, Charleston, WV
Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project, Asheville, NC
Center for Popular Economics, Amherst, MA
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, London, KY
Save the Children, Berea KY
SEED Center, Albuquerque, NM
New York Youth Summit on Sustainable Development
Woodland Community Land Trust, Clairfield, TN
Southern Girls Covention, Dunwoody, GA
Antioch New England Graduate School, Keene, NH
Environmental Grantmakers Association, Asheville, NC
One World Week, University of Leeds, UK
Omni Center for Peace, Justice & Ecology, Fayetteville, AK
Pocahontas Free Libraries, Marlinton, WV
College of William & Mary Earth Day Celebration
University of Iowa Earth Day Celebration
Center for Folklore & Ethnography, University of Pennsylvania

American Studies
Business Practices
Environmental Justice
Local Economies
Natural Resources

Toxic Chemicals

Related Titles

Black Diamonds
Examines the escalating drama in Appalachia over mountaintop removal mining.

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Drowned Out
An Indian family chooses to stay at home and drown rather than make way for the Narmada Dam.

Drumbeat for Mother Earth
Toxic chemicals are the greatest threat to the survival of indigenous peoples.

In Our Own Backyard
Lois Gibbs brilliantly leads her fellow residents in Love Canal in this classic documentary on the nation's first encounter with toxic waste.

Poison in the Rockies
Threats to water quality in the Colorado Rockies.

In Our Own Backyards
How does uranium mining impact the land and the health of people?

Borderline Cases
The environmental impact of the 2,000 factories (maquiladoras) on the US-Mexico border.

Redwood Summer
Documents both sides in the summer of struggle between environmentalists vs. loggers and timber companies.

Fury for the Sound
Women's contribution to the battle to save the rainforest at Clayoquot Sound.

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