Razing Appalachia

Sasha Waters. | 72 minutes. Room 135 Productions.

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In the tradition of recent David-and-Goliath documentaries such as Blue Vinyl and Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town, this quietly heartbreaking film depicts the battle between citizens of Blair, West Virginia, and Arch Coal Inc. over the issue of mountaintop removal mining. Taking its title from a 1999 Mother Jones investigation, Razing Appalachia provides shocking images — not only of “decapitated” mountains but of miles of streambeds entombed by the rocky by-products of such industrial beheading.

Working against the Blair-based activists is the fact that the head of West Virginia’ s department of environmental protection was a coal executive for 17 years. In addition, the end of mining expansion would likely mean the loss of some 400 jobs for union miners in this poverty-stricken region. Alas, these complexities aren’ t done justice by the unsophisticated filmmaking. But director Waters cuts to the heart of the matter when she captures a lifelong resident’ s rebuke of a government official: “You’ re the Environmental Protection Agency,” he says. “You’re not protecting me.”

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Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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