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Watch an Exclusive Clip of Elaine McMillion Sheldon’s King Coal

Filmmaker is happy to share an exclusive clip of Elaine McMillion Sheldon’s documentary King Coal, which opens at DCTV Firehouse Cinema in New York City on August 11 before a limited expansion.

The clip details the history of West Virginia’s New River—”the second oldest river in the world”—and the discovery of coal in a tributary nearby. Watch the full clip above.

An official synopsis gets into the film’s overall thesis:

A lyrical tapestry of a place and people, King Coal meditates on the complex history and future of the coal industry, the communities it has shaped, and the myths it has created. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon reshapes the boundaries of documentary filmmaking in a spectacularly beautiful and deeply moving immersion into Central Appalachia where coal is not just a resource, but a way of life, imagining the ways a community can re-envision itself. While deeply situated in the regions under the reign of King Coal, where McMillion Sheldon has lived and worked her entire life, the film transcends time and place, emphasizing the ways in which all are connected through an immersive mosaic of belonging, ritual, and imagination. Emerging from the long shadows of the coal mines, King Coal untangles the pain from the beauty, and illuminates the innately human capacity for change.

Yesterday, we published an interview with Sheldon, who provided insight into the inception and evolution of her film:

The film started in 2019 by documenting coal culture, seen through coal dust runs, pageants, coal shoveling contests, and coal education in the classroom; some of these things which have been around since I was a kid in the coalfields. Co-Producer Molly Born and I sought these traditions out, as documenting a living archive. It quickly became clear these coal-related rituals were dying traditions, and many of them traditions born out of people’s fears of “the king” dying. So I started to ask, what new rituals do we need, in life and in film, to help us live? This led us to think about the role of cinema in the process of grieving, as well as the already blurred lines between myth and reality when it comes to life in the coalfields.

McMillion appeared on our annual 25 New Faces of Film list back in 2013, and King Coal premiered at Sundance back in January. Read our interviews out of Sundance with DP Curren Sheldon (the filmmaker’s spouse) and editor Iva Radivojevic (an accomplished filmmaker herself) as well as Sheldon’s answer to our annual Sundance Question for feature directors.

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