On Coal River
Mountain top removal is just what it sounds like: a mountain, shaped over millennia by geology and weather, is leveled in a day. Its crumbled remains are then sifted for coal. This brutal process wrecks rivers, crushes communities and has been the subject of many documentaries, but none as well told as On Coal River. Directors Francine Cavanaugh and Adams Wood focus on a secondary school in Coal River Valley, West Virginia that is threatened by toxic waste from an MTR operation run by the notorious coal mining company Massey Energy. Tilting against the coal barons is a band of tenacious activists that includes 2011 Mountainfilm guest Maria Gunnoe and which is led by Ed Wiley whose granddaughter is a student at the school. The film follows the tense battle for the school but also tells the larger story of what is happening across Appalachia, home to some of the oldest mountains in the world.