Two new films are bringing the West Virginia way of life to the forefront of conversation through creative and poetic means.
To find yourself—or a representation of yourself—in a movie is to feel seen. To feel understood. This year, two new films debuted at film festivals across the country, highlighting our state, our region, and our ways of life. From rolling coal fields to city art scenes, these films have allowed us the opportunity to step back and reflect, all while seeing ourselves represented in brilliantly creative ways.
Academy Award–nominated and Emmy-winning director of the Oscar-nominated 2017 film Heroin(e) Elaine McMillion Sheldon transports viewers to the Appalachian coal fields of both past and present with her latest work: King Coal, a hauntingly poetic look into the coal industry of Appalachia and the way in which it has affected our past, present, and future. “For those of us who grow up with it,” the narrator says, “coal is intrinsic.” Coal is king, after all. But what comes of a king when in power for so long? What does change look like over time when power begins to diminish? And what are we in the aftermath? Award-winning King Coal asks this and more, inviting us to consider the answers for ourselves. Visit kingcoalfilm.com/screenings for the latest screening opportunities.
“With our feet on the ground and our hearts in the clouds, we must reenvision the pioneer,” poet KaÏ Kater recites in the opening moments of a documentary trailer that quickly grabbed the attention of film festivals all over the country. Directed by Clara Lehmann and Jonathan Lacocque—founders behind Coat of Arms, a West Virginia creative studio that offers services in all aspects of the filmmaking process—O Pioneer seeks to tackle the exploitative nature behind the idea of being a “pioneer” and discover a new definition as it follows the story of three unique West Viginians: Tim Hibbs, a blacksmith and musician in Queens; Nellie Rose Davis, a seamstress in Thomas; and James Morely, a hospital chaplain in Bridgeport. Catch the award-winning film at the Appalachian Film Festival in Huntington on December 7, 2023, or visit opioneer.com to find future screenings.