A new documentary takes an intimate look at mountaintop removal mining
Like many towns in Appalachia, Maytown, Kentucky, is a community divided. The wedge is coal, specifically the controversial practice of mountaintop removal mining. While to some residents it represents a vital source of jobs and income, to others it’s nothing short of an environmental atrocity that threatens to destroy both the land and a way of life. The new documentary Deep Down: A Story from the Heart of Coal Country follows two lifelong friends and Maytown residents whose families have lived in the area for generations. One is a local activist, trying to stop a coal company from strip-mining. The other is facing the anguishing decision of whether to lease his land to the company for much-needed financial security (click here to see a trailer).
“We wanted to make a character-driven film, not an issue-driven film,” says director Sally Rubin. “If the audience cares about the characters, then they will care about the issue. Issue films have limitations in that it is easy to forget that the issue affects real people’s lives.” We won’t give away how it ends, but it’s precisely this intimate look at the people directly affected by these decisions that makes the documentary so compelling. It tackles a big issue by going small, and whether you live in Appalachia or not, chances are it’ll make you think twice about leaving the lights on.
Look for Deep Down’s national debut on the PBS series Independent Lens November 23, or purchase the DVD online at deepdownfilm.org.