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“Bonecrusher” isn’t the cuddliest nickname, but the “little skinny feller” who earned that title is the heart of this dust-covered love story unearthed in Appalachia by documentarian Michael F. Fountain. Inhabitants of the trackside town of Dante, Va., are “all knitted together”—feisty Southern women, à la Scarlett O’Hara (though decidedly less spoiled), sell peach pie to the local sheriff and chew the fat about “the men’s special bonds in the mines,” while omnipresent CSX trains chug along below. Those trains carry the boon and bane of Dante: coal. Hence the tug-of-war in which Luther “Bonecrusher” Chaffin and his son Lucas find themselves: Now-retired and black-lung-afflicted Luther has forbidden his 25-year-old son Lucas to follow him into the mine. But because the money’s good and he refuses to leave the Chaffins’ Hazel Mountain homestead, Lucas carries his father’s hammer and lunchpail into the mines each day at 5 a.m. Coal is the town’s only industry—save for a tiny grocer and sweet-tea-slinging mom-and-pop diner—and Lucas’ only other options for a steady paycheck lie in Washington, D.C.’s, service industry, nine hours away. Watching father and son negotiate mortality and money, Fountain’s documentary tugs at the heart as much as at the conscience: In Bonecrusher, there really is no such thing as “clean coal.”
Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Regal Gallery Place.Director Michael F. Fountain will be present.