photographs for Mountain Eye Media, Adams and Francine Wood

On Coal River

Tuesday, October 12

Q&A with directors Francine Cavanaugh & Adams Wood

ON COAL RIVER takes viewers on a gripping emotional journey into the Coal River Valley of West Virginia, where longtime local residents begin to uncover the toxic effects of America’s increased demand for cheap coal, a resource that supplies half of America’s electricity.

As a former miner, Ed Wiley knows the importance of West Virginia’s largest industry, but when he senses his granddaughter’s recurrent illness is linked to a coal waste facility near her school, Ed embarks on a quest to have the school relocated to safer ground. To his dismay not everyone in the valley recognizes the impending threat, and he soon finds himself in the midst of a political tug-of-war.

Ed’s neighbors Bo and Judy understand the problem all too well. While Judy crisscrosses the state in search of sympathetic politicians, Bo pours over maps and legal documents that may hold proof of the mining companies’ illegal activity, all in an effort to slow the destruction. Meanwhile, massive explosions from nearby mountaintop removal sites grow closer with each passing day, and before long their worst fears begin to look increasingly like an inevitable reality.

Across the valley, Maria Lambert recognizes a pattern in the unusual health problems plaguing her community. Following intuition, and what she describes as a mission from above, Maria gathers evidence suggesting the state’s largest mining company has contaminated her neighborhood’s water supply.

Shot over a four year period, ON COAL RIVER follows the transformation of these four remarkable individuals as they face the challenge of a lifetime, fighting for the survival of their way of life, and the lives of future generations. Premiered at Silverdocs 2010.

“Hillbilly Davids best a corporate Goliath… Keenly Observed.” – Variety

“You’ll cheer at the tenacity of the fighters.” – Washington City Paper

  • Country USA
  • Rating NR
  • Year 2010
  • Running Time 81 minutes
  • Director Francine Cavanaugh & Adams Wood