September 9, 2002
Contact: Steve Fesenmaier, Film Programmer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Cooper, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, email@example.com
World premier screenings at Flooded Out Film Festival
All proceeds from Oct. 10 event go to flood victims
CHARLESTON, W. Va. - While any good flick fest is bound to include a controversial film, the Flooded Out Film Festival is all about controversy.
Many coalfield residents who lived through the deluges of July 2001 and May this year believe both unregulated timbering and the controversial coal mining practice of mountaintop removal (MTR) made flooding far worse than it would have been, had the mountains not been denuded and scalped and the valleys not filled.
Those floods, including the July valley fill disaster at a Massey Energy mine near Lyburn in Logan County, are examined in "Flood Stories," a short by Charleston filmmaker Robert Gates. Gates' film makes its world premier as it opens the Flooded Out Film Festival at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10 at the West Virginia State College Capitol Center Theatre, 123 Summers St. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. Tickets are available at the door with a suggested donation of $5. All proceeds go to flood victims, including the McDowell County Public Library, which was devastated by the May floods.
The Festival marks the two-year anniversary of the massive sludge spill from a coal sludge impoundment at a MTR site in eastern Kentucky. On Oct. 11, 2000, 306 million gallons of black sludge burst out of the Massey Energy impoundment, devastating 75 miles of waterways.
While focusing on the environmental ruin coal companies wreak upon the state, the Festival also celebrates the beauty of the mountains with the world premier of "Mountain Memories," a documentary by Hardy County filmmaker Ray Schmitt. Schmitt presents the life and work of nature photographer Jim Clark who lives in War, McDowell County.
In late July, Steve Fesenmaier, West Virginia's veteran film festival organizer and Graffiti magazine movie critic, presented the concept for the event to the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC). OVEC and a coalition of groups calling for an end to MTR - including Coal River Mountain Watch, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, and Citizens Coal Council - agreed to co-sponsor the festival. Fesenmaier and the groups worked together to program the event.
Other sponsors of the festival include the WVSC Capitol Center Theatre, Robert Gates, Appalshop Films of Whitesburg, Ky., Ray Schmitt, Bullfrog Films, Graffiti magazine, and the Two Boots Pioneer Theater of New York City.
Fesenmaier, Sandy Berman, members of OVEC and CRMW and others recently conducted a letter-writing campaign to convince the Library of Congress to create an official subject heading for "mountaintop removal mining" that will be used by libraries around the world. Up to now, the only way to find materials on MTR was by researching subject headings such as "strip mining" and "coal mining."
Journalists may borrow the films for preview by contacting Fesenmaier at 304-345-5850.
- 7 p.m. Two films by Robert Gates, WV's leading independent documentary filmmaker:
--"Trip to Kayford Mountain" Examines efforts to educate the public on the plight of Kayford Mountain, a green oasis in a moonscape of
--"Flood Stories" WORLD PREMIERE
- 8 p.m. Hardy County filmmaker Ray Schmitt:
"Mountain Memories." WORLD PREMIERE
- 8:30 p.m. Tom Hansell of Appalshop, the official media center for Appalachia:
"Coal Bucket Outlaw" WEST VIRGINIA PREMIERE Kentucky's coal truck weight limit is 120,000 lbs., but drivers in the eastern part of the state speak of being forced to haul much heavier loads. West Virginia is in the midst of an overweight coal truck controversy. Trucks have been running extremely overweight, breaking the law for years. Coalfield residents fear for their lives and taxpayers balk at the costs to maintain coal-truck-pummeled roads and bridges. Coal industry and certain legislators are calling for a new weight limit of 120,000 lbs., even as some in the industry publicly admit to "needing" to haul 160,000 lbs. or more.
- 9:00 p.m. Mimi Pickering of Appalshop:
"Buffalo Creek Flood: An Act of Man" This 1975 film examines the 1972 Buffalo Creek disaster, the most devastating Appalachian flood in terms of human deaths. 125 people died in the flood, created when a coal waste dam burst. This 25-minute documentary was one of Appalshop's first films and may be its most influential. Pittston Coal said the disaster was an "Act of Man." Shirley Marcus, a flood survivor said, "I didn't see God a-drivin' them slate trucks and wearing a hard-hulled cap. I did not see that at no time when I visited the dam. I don't believe it was an 'Act of God.' It was an act of man." The film uses some footage of Robert Gates, who was the first filmmaker on the scene.
- 9:30 p.m. The festival concludes with a showing of various recent TV stories about mountaintop removal and its effects. OVEC staff and volunteers and other West Virginia activists have worked with the producers of these stories to tell the world about one of the worst human-caused ecological disasters.