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Black Diamonds
Mountaintop Removal & The Fight For Coalfield Justice

Examines the escalating drama in Appalachia over mountaintop removal mining.


A printer-friendly version of this page 72 minutes
Directed by Catherine Pancake
Research, Consulting, Interviews by Ann Pancake
Graphic Design by Randy Miller
Narrated by Lauren Graham





"Searing...vividly depict[s] the catastrophic ecological and cultural effects wrought by mountaintop removal." Michael Yockel, Baltimore Magazine
BLACK DIAMONDS charts the escalating drama in Appalachia over the alarming increase in large mountaintop coal mines. These mammoth operations have covered 1200 miles of headwater streams with mining waste; demolished thousands of acres of hardwood forest; and flattened hundreds of Appalachian mountain peaks.

Citizen testimony and visual documentation interwoven with the perspectives of government officials, activists, and scientists create a riveting portrait of an American region fighting for its life--caught between the grinding wheels of the national appetite for cheap energy and an enduring sense of Appalachian culture, pride, and natural beauty.

The film includes testimony from Julia Bonds, WV citizen-turned-activist, who received the 2003 Goldman Award (the nation's largest environmental activist award); Ken Hechler, former WV Secretary of State; William Maxey, former Director of WV Division of Forestry; and the many citizens of West Virginia.

NOTE: The director of BLACK DIAMONDS, Catherine Pancake, is available to appear at screenings of this film. Please contact us for details.



Grade Level: 7 - 12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2006     Copyright Date: 2006
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-612-8     VHS ISBN: 1-59458-611-X




Reviews
"Unflinching...Looks at coal-mining issues in the twenty-first century, focusing on the destruction that occurs as a result of mountaintop removal and offering a space for the human victims to express their outrage."
Appalachian Voices

"A searing...documentary...mixes history, sociology, advocacy journalism, and personal portraits vividly depicting the catastrophic ecological and cultural effects wrought by mountaintop removal."
Michael Yockel, Baltimore Magazine

"A riveting and ultimately energizing documentary...plays like a modern-day Civil Action, only this time the corporate baddies are the leaders and mouthpieces of the coal industry, and the grass-roots crusaders are poor Appalachian residents who are rich in courage and culture. In a scant hour-plus, Black Diamonds provides a thumbnail economic and political history of coal mining in the state, a textured portrait of Appalachian life and a convincing case for ending the environmental scourge of decapitating mountains to get to the coal buried inside them."
Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

"BLACK DIAMONDS A MASTERPIECE... The Pancake sisters of West Virginia have created the best film to date on the subject of mountaintop removal mining... Presents the first complete overview of the subject... Black Diamonds is an epic film about the monumental collision between the demand for cheap energy and the century-long victims of this demand, the people, the land, the living Appalachian forests, the innocent animals and the very water and air they breathe."
Steve Fesenmaier, Graffiti

"Excellent...This searing documentary...belongs in all libraries (school, public, and university) in the coal mining regions of Appalachia. Other ecologically minded university and college libraries could also benefit from its purchase...I whole-heartedly and enthusiastically recommended this timely and important documentary."
Charles Burkart, Media Bibliographer, West Virginia University, Educational Media Reviews Online

"The film offers a broad view of the history of mountaintop removal mining, detailing the protests, pleas, lawsuits and lobbying being done by local community groups determined to end this horrible mining practice...Pancake interviews activists, politicians, and coal company officials, painting a complete picture of the fight for coal and the demands for justice. As mountains, streams, and an entire culture in Appalachia are sacrificed to extract more coal, Black Diamonds takes an unadulterated view of the real cost of our energy demands."
In Brief, Earthjustice

"America's Appalachian region, particularly West Virginia, has suffered disfigurement which is superbly chronicled in this masterful examination of the causes, effects, and potential solutions to this economic, political, and social crisis...The story presented in this compelling film needs to be shared."
Dwain Thomas, Lake Park High School, School Library Journal

"Black Diamonds' real power comes from accounts by people in the small towns who have literally seen their world ravaged and wrecked by the coal companies...Some 55% of American electricity is generated by coal; in this case, however, the costs acutely outweigh the benefits. Highly Recommended."
Video Librarian, Editor's Choice

"Catherine Pancake makes her film stand out from the rest...appropriate for various audiences, including high school and college students...The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) predicts that, in 2030, coal-powered plants will continue to be the leading U.S. source of electricity, so the film should remain relevant for some time"
AAAS' Science Books and Films

"Mountaintop-removal coal mining in Appalachia is uprooting not only nature, but people too. Black Diamonds documents the struggles of West Virginia mining towns whose intimate relationship with coal is scraping away their communities. Filmmaker Catherine Pancake interviews residents seeking permanence as eerily close blasts send clouds of particulates over their homes. Impassioned local activists, she reveals, are no match for the coal industry and its allies in the current administration...[Black Diamonds] brings visibility to a group of people whose lives have been marred by the insatiable lust for fuel."
Utne Reader

"Recommended for public library collections on environmental media."
Library Journal


PURCHASE >>
DVD $275
VHS $275
RENT
DVD $95
VHS $95
PREVIEW >>
DVD
VHS
Reduced rates for activist and grassroots groups. Please inquire.



DVD Features
With chapters for easy reference.

Links
Black Diamonds web site
Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition web site


Awards and Festivals
Editor's Choice, Video Librarian
Silver Chris Award, Columbus International Film & Video Festival
Best Documentary, Southern Appalachian International Film Festival
Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media Award
Jack Spadaro Award, Appalachian Studies Conference
Showcase Screening, Columbus International Film & Video Festival
Society for Visual Anthropology, American Anthropological Association Film Festival
Finalist, North American Assn for Environmental Education/Albert I Pierce Foundation Film & Video Festival
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Anchorage International Film Festival
West Virginia International Film Festival
Kansas International Film Festival
Takoma Park Film Festival
Heartwood's Annual Forest Council / Summit for the Mountains
Mountain Summer Justice Film Fest
Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival

Subjects
American Studies
Anthropology
Appalachia
Business Practices
Energy
Environment
Environmental Ethics
Environmental Justice
Geography
Geology
Human Rights
Humanities
Local Economies
Mining
Natural Resources
Pollution
Rivers
Science
Technology
Society

Social Justice
Sociology
Toxic Chemicals
Water


Related Titles

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

Dirty Business
Reveals the true social and environmental costs of coal power and looks at promising developments in renewable energy technology.

Southbound
Examines logging in the southeastern US and the controversy over chip mills.

Tar Creek
Tells the incredible story of the Tar Creek Superfund site in NE Oklahoma and the massive and deadly remains left by the lead and zinc mines there.

The Four Corners
The "hidden" cost of energy development in the homeland of the Hopi, Navajo, and Mormons.

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
First brush the U.S. had with toxic waste at Love Canal.

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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