Story by Linda Coutant
Whenever you turn on your lights or air conditioning, filmmaker Mari-Lynn Evans wants you to consider who pays the price for that electricity.
“The people of Appalachia will be hard to forget after people see their faces and hear their stories,” says Evans, a native of West Virginia whose documentary “Coal Country” will be released this fall by Sierra Club Productions.
A free screening of Evans’ film – which examines the impact of mountaintop removal coal mining on Appalachia’s citizens and economy – will be held in Charleston, W.Va., July 11 at 7 p.m. in the South Charleston Museum’s La Belle Theatre. The public is invited.
Evans and director Phylis Geller spent three years working on “Coal Country.” They began the project after Evans saw the environmental and human impact of mountaintop removal coal mining in her home state and other parts of Appalachia while interviewing residents for “The Appalachians,” a three-hour series she released with the Sierra Club in 2005.
“It changed my life,” she said of her visit to mountaintop removal mining-damaged areas. “I came back home to Ohio and couldn’t stop thinking about it. I decided to make a film about mountaintop removal in the larger perspective of the coal industry and its role in U.S. energy consumption. It’s important for people to see this film and see what’s happening as a result of mountaintop removal.”
Evans and Geller visited the homes of people directly affected by the mining process, who tell of health problems, dirty water choking their wells and streams, and the loss of the area’s natural beauty. They also talked to miners and coal company officials, who are concerned about jobs and the economy and believe they are acting responsibly in bringing power to the American people.
“Coal Country” also explores the region’s options for future economic development, including wind and solar power, which could simultaneously diversify the region’s economy and preserve the natural resources for future generations.
Learn more about the film at www.sierraclub.org/scp/coalcountry