First, there was Ashley Judd speaking to 500 or more activists at I Love Mountains Day in Frankfort. There was the Diane Sawyer documentary that aired on ABC Friday, one of the highest-rated episodes in 20/20 history. The network is doing a follow-up report tonight at 10.
And it so happens that we finally got to see the award-winning documentary “Mountaintop Removal” thanks to our friend Gill Holland, who along with his wife Augusta were executive producers of the film. We also spoke with Mike O’Connell (not the Jefferson County Attorney) who produced the heart-wrenching documentary that chronicles a community’s fight with government to get a new school built to replace one that’s just down the hill from a toxic coal silo. O’Connell is the man behind Haw River Films, which produced the film.
Louisville native William Mapother narrates the film, which has won several awards, including one presented by Al Gore. It’s been featured at dozens of film festivals around the country, including one in Louisville just last month.
It’s eye-opening, in much the same way that Sawyer’s ABC piece is, but clearly shows the damage caused by the practice of mountaintop removal both to the landscape and the people. The footage of protests held in the West Virginia governor’s office are riveting. But it’s not all about protesters holding signs, as O’Connell explained to us. He has a lengthy interview with a big coal executive, and chronicles a man’s walk from Kentucky to Washington to make a point.
So you really need to see it. You can get a copy on the website above. Or, plan to attend the screening by the University of Kentucky Writing Program Film Series on Thursday, April 2, at 7:00 PM in the Auditorium in Young Library. O’Connell will be present for the screening and available to take questions from students and other audience members.