Even if you're not tapped into the daily vibe of environmental news and issues, you've no doubt heard of or seen the devastation caused by mountaintop removal mining.
Since coal companies decided that blasting was better than mining, more than 500 Appalachian mountains have been destroyed, decimating 1 million acres of forest, and burying some 2,000 miles of streams. Organizations like Waterkeeper and ILoveMountains have fought against companies like Massey Energy, while lobbying for tougher federal restrictions on strip mining and so-called ash ponds.
Perhaps their greatest weapon, however, is a new documentry premiering at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival called "The Last Mountain." The gathering of independent filmmakers has long been a jumping off point for documentaries looking to reach a mass audience. Past flicks like “The Cove,” “FUEL,” “Gasland” and “An Inconvenient Truth” all took part in Sundance during their early showings — and all are still talked about today.
Here's a quick synopsis of "The Last Mountain":
"Focusing on the devastating effects of mountaintop coal removal in West Virginia’s Coal River Valley, filmmaker Bill Haney illustrates the way residents and activists are standing up to the industry and major employer that is so deeply embedded in the region. With strong support from Bobby Kennedy Jr. and grassroots organizations, awareness is rising in the battle over Appalachian mountaintop mining."
"The coal industry receives a proper thumping in the righteously angry 'The Last Mountain,' writes Robert Koehler. "Pic repeats the by-now-patented devices of activist filmmaking, suggesting that the tired form needs an overhaul, but its use as an organizing tool should give it long life in vid."
Alison Willmore of IFC adds that the film succeeds beyond the environmental destruction by focusing on the people caught in the path of Big Coal's devastation.
"If the issues were only environmental, 'The Last Mountain' would be something of a familiar refrain," she writes, "but the film has more up its sleeve than (to be sure, wrenching) helicopter shots of the decimated moonscapes that are the working mines, barren construction zones permanently altering the face of the countryside."
While the movie has yet to find a distributor, you can expect that Sundance will elevate its profile to the point where some studio will swoop in and give it a market. It's a new weapon in the fight against dirty energy, and anti-MTR activists will certainly use it.
Check out a trailer for the film below.