Coal Controversy Divides Communities

Review by Megan Perdue

Deep Down: A Story from the Heart of Coal Country demonstrates the polarization and dichotomy of Appalachian coal issues—especially mountaintop removal—by characterizing two individuals on opposite ends of the issue spectrum.

Both Beverly May and Terry Ratliff grew up in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, but on opposite sides of a mountain ridge—and opposite sides of the coal issue. The film details Beverly’s new anti-coal activist lifestyle foiled with Terry’s struggle to decide whether he should keep or sell his property to mine owners. Filmed in 2007, the documentary follows these two friends as they struggle to understand “who controls, consumes, and benefits from our planet’s shrinking supply of natural resources,” especially coal in eastern Kentucky.

Filmmakers Jen Gilomen and Sally Rubin explore how coal separates communities and friends who recognize the environmental and health consequences of mining, but who cannot escape the necessary evil of coal as a quick source of energy and work.

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