Flooded Out Film Festival
October 10, 2002
Photos by Vivian Stockman
Photos - Pg1 Pg2
Over 150 folks came out on a dreary, rainy evening (after all the film fest was to be held rain or shine) for the Flooded Out Film Festival. Through ticket-donations and the purchase of volunteer-baked-goodies, we raised $1239 for victims of the floods of 2002. All the money goes to the McDowell Co. Long-Term Flood Relief Center and the McDowell Co. Public Library. (OVEC will absorb costs related to promoting and staging the event.)
A big thanks goes to Laura McCullough and Steve Fesenmaier with the State College Capitol Theatre. Many thanks to
films, Graffiti Magazine, Two Boots Pioneer Theatre and filmmakers Bob Gates, Tom Hansell and Ray Schmitt. (Biographies of the filmmakers are below the Film Festival photos.)
Many, many thanks to the super-volunteers who made this evening such a success: Missy and Gregg Anthony, Jennifer Belcher, Greg Carroll, Connie Chojnacki, Winnie Fox, Carol Jackson, Lenny Kohm, Julian Martin, Janice Nease, Anne Pancake, Winter Ross, Kathryn Stone, John Taylor, Mae Ellen Wilson and Chuck Wyrostok.
Beyond raising money for the victims, the purpose of the Flooded Out Film Festival was to examine the effects of the most controversial issues in
West Virginia -- mountaintop removal coal mining and overweight coal trucks.
Floods associated with mountaintop removal come in a variety of frightening forms. The film festival was held on the eve of the two year anniversary of the Great Sludge Disaster. On Oct. 11, 2000, a Massey Energy coal slurry impoundment at Kentucky's largest mountaintop removal site failed, spewing 306 million gallons of nasty coal sludge into Kentucky and West Virginia streams, smothering aquatic life and ruining water supplies.
Only two days before the film festival, Massey gave us another sludge flood, this one "only" 100,000 gallons. This latest Massey offering to our state is just over the mountain from the site of a July 19 Massey Valley Fill disaster at Lyburn Hollow. The Film Festival aired the world premier of Bob Gates' "Flood Stories," which includes horrifying footage from that mountaintop removal flood disaster.
We also aired an Appalshop film on another coal-related flood tragedy, "The Buffalo Creek Flood --An Act of Man." Another Appalshop film,
Outlaw," which looks at what's happening with overloaded coal trucks in Kentucky, had its West Virginia premiere at the Flooded Out Film Festival.
"Mountain Memories" by Ray Schmitt had its world premiere at the festival. This film about West Virginia nature photographer Jim Clark was a welcome relief amongst all the devastating images. This film reminds us of the incredible beauty of our state, of what we are fighting to preserve.
OVEC's Vivian Stockman and librarian and film critic Steve Fesenmaier, who first suggested the Flooded Out Film Festival, were masters of ceremonies for the evening. Gates, Hansell and Schmitt all introduced their films and answered audience questions. OVEC's Dave Cooper kept taking care of every detail, right through the end of the evening.
The Flooded Out Film festival sought to make people think, then act. Southern West Virginians shouldn't have to look up at a gray sky with fear, wondering if this will be the downpour that brings another devastating flood roiling off the thousands of acres of bulldozed-away forests, blown-up mountaintops and rubble-filled valleys.
Many people were saddened and angered by what they saw at the Flooded Out Film Festival -- the coal company abuse of our homes, our land and our future. You need to see the films too. How about arranging for a show in your community?
We hope everyone will channel their rage into positive actions aimed at bringing an end to mountaintop removal. For ideas on actions you can take, be sure to check our Action alerts! and How You Can Help pages frequently. If you would like Action Alerts! delivered to your e-mail in box, send an e-mail with the subject "add to OVEC list" to
Robert Gates, presenting "Trip to Kayford Mountain and the world premier of "Flood Stories," is an independent filmmaker based in Charleston, WV. He has been making films since 1977 when he premiered his hour-long documentary on stripmining around the country, "In Memory of the Land and People." He has been making documentary films ever since. He has also made several experimental films which have won awards. He is a photographer and a theatrical lighting expert, working on many local productions. He is the winner of the lifetime achievement award from the WV International Film Festival; he is a founding member of the WV Filmmakers Guild; and he has been an environmental activist since he came to Appalachia in 1975 to work as a computer and chemical engineer at Union Carbide.
Ray Schmitt presents the world premiere of his newest film, "Mountain Memories," a biography of Jim Clark, who was born in War, WV, and is now a world-famous nature photographer. Schmitt has been producing, directing and editing film and video productions since 1975. He has won many national and international awards and has produced over 30 productions ranging from original dramas to documentaries. Awards include first place in the Canadian International Film Festival in 1987 and a "CINE Gold Eagle" award for his documentary "When Sound is Silent." His documentary dealing with disability issues, "Coming to Terms," was a finalist in the Outstanding Educational/ Documentary film category in the 13th Annual Media Access Awards, in Los Angeles, and received a blue ribbon in the 1992 American Film and Video Festival. Schmitt's other major productions are "A Conversation with Poet Laureate Rita Dove" hosted by National Public Radio special correspondent Susan Stamberg (1993); "Adriana: Shadows on Yellow Silk" on acclaimed Middle Eastern dancer Adriana Miller (1997); and "$4 Trillion and Counting: The Pension System in America" (1999). Schmitt's latest acclaimed documentary "Twigman" is a portrait of artist Tom Pumroy from Paw Paw, West Virginia (2002). "The Lights," his first sci-fi feature, was officially released on July 4, 2002.
Tom Hansell presents the West Virginia premiere of "Coal Bucket Outlaw." Hansell is a documentary filmmaker based at Appalshop, a media arts center located in Whitesburg, Kentucky. He has 12 years experience working with mountain communities to produce media about Appalachian culture and issues The half hour documentary examines energy policy through the eyes of Kentucky coal truckers. It provides a gritty view of the underpinnings of an economy based on extraction of natural resources. Hansell's previous documentary "The Breaks of the Mountain" was created for broadcast on Kentucky Educational Television. He also co-directed "Evelyn Williams with Anne Lewis. He has produced two radio series for national distribution and is actively involved in local environmental issues. Hansell graduated from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.
Bob Gates' film of the valley fill above Lyburn was scary, mostly because it was not at all surprising. Whether started by surface or lateral ditch erosion, water building up within the fill and blowing out, or a combination of both - THE TOE OF THE VALLEY FILL OBVIOUSLY FAILED and downstream terror and destruction resulted.
I've warned officials of this predictable scenario several times. Maybe DEP will present the film at the Legislature as evidence of need for stricter regs, compacted fills, sediment ponds that are not postage stamps relative to the areas they are supposed to serve, and sledgehammer enforcement tools in lieu of feather dusters.
After Gates' film I wondered... in West Virginia, have we ever witnessed any terrorism to rival that of mining sites like the one that devastated
Lyburn? What home is secure downstream of these dumps? To facilitate cheap mine waste disposal, we've basically allowed engineering practices
of a moderately gifted 4-year old in a sandbox.
The film provides compelling documentation of the results of industry negligence and regulatory inadequacy. But maybe burning those damn lights dirt cheap is worth terrorizing innocent people and destroying communities.
It was great! Contrasting the ugly with the beautiful of WV gave a powerful
A great compilation of history, tragedy, and survival. If you care about
Appalachia, you need to see this collection of films.
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