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Get ready to shake your head and/or fist. Francine Cavanaugh’s On Coal River outlines the ire-inducing environmental nightmare experienced by residents of the eponymous West Virginia valley, particularly its children. Sitting in the shadow of Massey Energy, the coal-extracting company that lost 25 miners in an explosion this spring, is an elementary school that sucks in the firm’s dust and chemicals. According to a poll, 88 percent of the school’s students have health problems, from headaches to asthma whose symptoms lessen on weekends. But it’s not just the kids. Nearly every adult in the area can tick off at least a few names of family members or neighbors who have cancer. And if you don’t want to hear their stories, you can just look at their water—a filthy, chunky liquid that residents won’t even bathe in and which turns bright filters ink-black in about a week. A watchdog group lobbies hard for the company to be held accountable or, at least, for a new school to be built far away from Massey’s poison. But it spends years bucking red tape and even more powerful roadblocks: the history of the area as a mining town; the fact that, according to a worker, “mining keeps the lights on.” You’ll cheer at the tenacity of the fighters, particularly Ed Wiley, who organizes a march to D.C. to talk with Sen. Robert Byrd while West Virginia’s governor sits on his hands. Wiley and his army decry so-called clean coal as a “dirty lie,” and with each battle prove that “just because you live in the mountains doesn’t mean you’re a dumb hillbilly.”
At 6:15 p.m.; also on Saturday, June 26, at 6:45 p.m. Both screenings at AFI Silver Theater 2.