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Fri-Sun, Sep 15-24


  • Dir. Elaine McMillion Sheldon
  • USA
  • 2022
  • 78 min.
  • NR
  • DCP
  • Assistive Listening
  • Closed Captioning
  • Descriptive Audio
  • Hearing Loop

Part of Doc Spotlight.

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 Knoxville-based filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon reshapes the boundaries of documentary filmmaking in a spectacularly beautiful and poignantly moving immersion into Central Appalachia where coal is not just a resource, but a way of life. While deeply situated in the communities 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.

“Filmed in Central Appalachia — including the director's home state of West Virginia — KING COAL moves beyond shallow impressions of the region with a real love for her neighbors and prodding questions about what it means to identify with an industry that has harmed and exploited generations of families.” —Monica Castillo,

“A breathtakingly expressive job of capturing the strangeness, the beauty and the devastation of her homeland in the poetic, entrancing documentary KING COAL.” —Kyle Smith, Wall Street Journal

“Locates the beauty, potentiality and sorrow of the region to its surrounding mountain ranges, from forested rolling hills to the mounds of coal on river barges.” —Robert Daniels, New York Times

“Artfully told through atmospheric narration and evocative editing.” —Marya E. Gates, The Playlist 

See the Official Website