Coal has always been king in West Virginia. The fossil fuel has been powering the nation and the world from the mid-18th century’s Industrial Revolution to the present day.
However, coal has been on decline, especially in recent years. Depending on one’s view, reasons can range from energy market demands and environmental concerns to regulatory agencies attacking hardworking people and their families. The documentary “From the Ashes,” which is being screened Mondays in August at Charleston’s Underground Cinema, shows that coal’s decline isn’t as black and white as folks might think.
Ultimately, the 82-minute film puts on display the effects on the industry’s workers and their communities. It also touches on the history and politics surrounding coal. The running theme throughout the film is the question of whether or not coal can continue to be a viable energy source in the 21st century. The many speakers include climate scientists, community leaders, and coal miners.
I felt that the coverage of the issues was not only balanced in presenting the pro-coal/anti-coal stances, but also in presenting the views of the industry players and politicians equally with those of blue-collar and working-class people. Industry leaders and politicians both got their say about coal’s future, yet the miners, their families, and citizens not related to mining had opportunity to pitch in about how mine layoffs, pollution, and the energy market affects them.
Having been born and raised in Charleston, I’ve heard all of the views and situations in one way or another. I found something I could at least understand in every speaker’s testimony, and I particularly empathized with the miners and their families.
I also greatly appreciated having the scientists in the film to provide the cold, hard facts. That reinforced that this isn’t a film about swaying viewers one way or another about coal and other energy sources. I was shown that this film is concerned with the science and economics surrounding the coal industry. The scientists and other experts presented all of their information in a way that the average person could understand.
I saw no reason why the film could be considered inappropriate for any age group. It can be enjoyed by the entire family, provided the family likes documentaries.
I think “From the Ashes” is a film that every West Virginian should see, if possible. The best matches are with fans of documentaries and environmental activists. I would also recommend this film to anyone curious about the American energy sector and its future.
“From the Ashes” is August’s selection for the Underground Cinema’s “Movies that Matter” series. It is being shown Mondays in August at 7 p.m. The cinema’s screening is sponsored by the West Virginia branch of Citizen’s Climate Lobby. “From the Ashes” was directed by Michael Bonfiglio, produced by RadicalMedia, and presented by National Geographic.