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Razing Appalachia

In the misty folds of the Appalachian mountains lies Pigeonroost Hollow, in Blair, West Virginia. With its narrow creek and crawdads, its wild ginseng and raccoons, Pigeonroost looks as it might have a century ago -- a woody haven tucked away from time and technology. But for how long? And at what price?

In May 1998, Arch Coal, Inc. announced it would expand its Dal-Tex strip mine just above the small town of Blair. But lifetime residents said too many had already been bought out or chased away by the giant mine, and that Arch Coal's planned expansion was the final threat to their once-tranquil way of life. Forty families -- where there were once 300 -- stayed in Blair.

RAZING APPALACHIA is the story of their remarkable fight -- against the second-largest coal company in America, against the know-nothing state political leaders and, unhappily, against the 400 union miners whose jobs were on the line.

'Without wielding a heavy hand, Sasha Waters's conveyed clearly: for viewers to understand what it means to have one's homeplace on the line...and what it means to have a community divided by the threat of removal of either courting sites, cemeteries, and homes, or the best-paying jobs in the region... A point to be appreciated about this film is that it does not pit the landholders against the miners, but instead shows many ways that they constitute the same community being presented with a dilemma through the logic of global capitalist development... Razing Appalachia shows how the contradiction between the preservation of 'place' as a site for the construction of community, memory, and livelihood and the permanent alteration of that place through extractive industries - a theme with much resonance - plays out in Blair, West Virginia... the issues discussed in this film link the workers and residents of Pigeonroost Hollow with those in many other places.' Ann Kingsolver, Univ. of South Carolina for Anthropology of Work Review

'A competent and even-handed look at yet another frontier where corporate interests are wreaking havoc on U.S. natural resources...Sasha Waters takes care to let all sides be heard, though inevitably most viewers will react strongest to the appalling sight of once-beautiful, now permanently 'decapitated' Appalachian hills.' Variety

'Quietly heartbreaking...' Mother Jones

'A good example of what makes public TV valuable...the product of an individual vision...unlikely to air anywhere else.' The New Yorker

'Vividly demonstrates that environmental regulatory and land use issues can be both highly complex and multi-dimensional. This splendidly objective film illustrates that dominant issues driving many modern environmental disputes tend to be more gray than either black or white.' Stuart Lieberman, Esq., Partner, Lieberman and Blecher--specializing in environmental law

'Highly Recommended...A serious, balanced documentary about an urgent issue affecting parts of Appalachia, mountaintop removal...Multiple viewpoints, including miners, mine owners, environmentalists and residents, are objectively presented in this the film progresses, the well integrated, structured framework emerges...From the heart of Appalachia, I highly recommend this interesting, timely and important film.' Educational Media Reviews Online, Charles Burkart, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV

'Conveys the complexity of the issue...This powerful document conveys the emotional impact this fight has had on all concerned. Photography, sound, and editing are well done, and the variety of individuals interviewed contributes to the successful picture of a community divided by these issues. Highly recommended' Library Journal

'Giv[es] voice to representatives of different sides of a bitter and agonizing debate...highly successful at simultaneously engaging the senses...the emotions, and the intellect. I strongly recommend [Razing Appalachia] for the ethnographic glimpse of this segment of Americana and for the discussion it will stimulate.' Jim Weil, Anthropology of Work Review

'Offers an in-depth look at the turbulent history of the region...It is impossible not to get angry at the absence of interest in Washington for bringing jobs, educational opportunities and economic diversity to Appalachia.' Phil Hall, Film Threat


Main credits

Waters, Sasha (film director)
Waters, Sasha (film producer)
Waters, Sasha (editor of moving image work)

Other credits

Camera, Ted Bourne [and 4 others].

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

American Studies
Business Practices
Environmental Justice
Local Economies
Natural Resources
Science, Technology, Society
Toxic Chemicals


mountaintop removal, coal mining, West Virginia, Blair, ; Arch Coal, Dal-Tex, strip mining; "Razing Appalachia"; Bullfrog Films

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