CHARLESTON, W.Va. — “King Coal,” a feature-length documentary by West Virginia-raised and Academy Award-nominated filmmakers Curren Sheldon and Elaine McMillion Sheldon, makes its home-state premiere at the West Virginia Culture Center in Charleston, West Virginia, on July 8 at 6 p.m.
The West Virginia International Film Festival presents the event and will feature the 75-minute film screening, a live Q&A discussion with filmmakers, food, and music. The film is rated "Y" and is appropriate for families and children.
A lyrical tapestry of a place and people, “King Coal” meditates on the complex history and future of the coal industry and the communities it has shaped. The film remixes present-day moments of life in the coalfields with archival footage and atmospheric invocations of the land to alchemize something new — a rare, nuanced depiction of the community.
Local teens — Lanie Marsh, of Hurricane, West Virginia, and Gabby Wilson, of Charleston, West Virginia — are featured in the film. Marsh and Wilson, both dancers, learn the story of coal while McMillion Sheldon’s poetic voiceover guides us through the experience, and an expressive score differentiates the reality of coal from a more imaginative world. The hybrid approach allows McMillion Sheldon to explore the act of storytelling itself and is a magical reclamation of the power of stories to shape how a region sees itself.
“King Coal” premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival and has since played at film festivals in the United States and Canada and won three jury awards. The film also was named one of Esquire's Most Anticipated Docs of 2023. The film was produced from 2019 to 2022 and filmed on-location across West Virginia and central Appalachia.
Director Elaine McMillion Sheldon said she was excited to return to West Virginia.
“We are so excited to bring this film home to the place and the people that made it possible,” Sheldon said. “It’s a night to celebrate and to discuss what we want for Appalachia’s future generations.”
Several West Virginia artists designed original poster designs for the film, which will be available for sale on July 8. Short Story Brewing will provide local brews. Echo-Lit will provide printing. If you’re a local musician, we invite you to bring your instrument and join us for a jam after the screening.
Filmmakers in attendance for the Q&A include director Elaine McMillion Sheldon; director of photography Curren Sheldon; co-producer Molly Born; associate producer Clara Haizlett; producer Diane Becker; and impact producer Mia Bruno. Additionally, many people who appear in the film, including Wilson and Marsh, will be there.
Delford Chaffin, president of the film festival, underscored the film as a landmark production that introduces West Virginia to the world.
“It is an absolute honor to bring this film to Charleston,” Chaffin said. “Our goal is to bring the world to West Virginia, and West Virginia to the world, and shining a spotlight on our local filmmakers is a huge part of that. We are excited for West Virginians to get a chance to see ‘King Coal’ and engage in a discussion with the team afterward.”
The film was made possible with the generous support of the West Virginia Humanities Council, The Peggy and Millard Drexler Family Foundation, the West Virginia International Film Festival, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, Field of Vision, Creative Capital, Catapult Film Fund, The Tribeca Film Institute, The Guggenheim Foundation, The University of Tennessee School of Art, The Gotham Film & Media Institute, and Documentary Educational Resources.
King Coal was filmed on location in 2019-2022
Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine - Beckley
Belle, West Virginia
Benedict Haid Farm - Clendenin
Blackwater Falls State Park - Davis
Blanton Forest - Wallins Creek, Ky.
Blenko Glass - Milton
Burnsville, North Carolina
Brick's Cuts - Logan
Canaan Valley Resort - Davis
Cass Scenic Railroad State Park - Cass
Carnegie Museum of Natural History - Pittsburgh, Pa.
Charleston, West Virginia
Chief Logan State Lodge - Logan
Coal Country Mini Golf - Fairmont
Coalfield Jamboree - Logan
Coal River - Boone County
Cranberry Wilderness - Hillsboro
Davis & Elkins College - Elkins
Deep Mountain Farm - Fayetteville
No. 9 Mine Disaster Memorial - Farmington
Hot Cup - Logan
Gaudineer Knob - Huttonsville
GoMart Ballpark - Charleston
Grafton & Upton Railroad - Grafton
Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Cherokee, N.C.
Gump’s IGA - Grafton
Helvetia, West Virginia
Highland Elementary - Paintsville, Ky.
Ironworx Body Arts - Bluewell
Ijams Nature Center - Knoxville, Tenn.
Kanawha River - Belle
King Coal Show - Carmichaels, Pa.
King Coal Highway - Delbarton
Lost Creek Farm - Lost Creek
Madison, West Virginia
Mia Margherita - Bridgeport
Monongahela National Forest
Monongah Mine Disaster Memorial - Monongah
Nativibes - Mannington
Nettie, West Virginia
New River Gorge National Park - Fayetteville
Nu-Era Bakery - Logan
Palatine Park - Fairmont
Peadittle Ridge Farm - Moatsville
Pine Mountain - Eastern Kentucky
Port Amherst - Charleston
Portal 31 - Lynch, Ky.
Resurrection Church Capitol Theater - Charleston
Richwood, West Virginia
Riffle Farms - Terra Alta
Rising Appalachia Warriors Camp - Millfield, Oh.
Thomas, West Virginia
Thurmond, West Virginia
Williamson, West Virginia
Williamson PK-8 School - Williamson
Welch, West Virginia
West Virginia University - Morgantown
King Coal Film Credits
Written and Directed by
Elaine McMillion Sheldon
Shane Boris, Diane Becker, Peggy Drexler, Elaine McMillion Sheldon
Executive Produced by
Katherine Drexler, Heather A. Baldry
Elaine McMillion Sheldon
Director of Photography
Curren Sheldon & Molly Born
Shane Boris, Logan Hill, Iva Radivojević, Heather Hannah
Original Score by
Clara Haizlett & Elijah Stevens
Location Sound Mixer
Dominic “Shodekeh” Talifero
Doy Leon Russell
Echo Wren Shaffer
Delores W. Cook
Anne C. Smith
Mira Watkins Brown
Doris"Lady D" Fields
Terri Strand's Fourth Grade Class, White Hall Elementary School
Mingo Central High School Miners Football Team (2019 & 2021)
Dr. Mike Brumage
John W. Campbell
Dan & Navin Carlisle
Rev. Brad Davis
V. Cheyenne DeBolt
Isaac “Shelem” Fatiga
Dr. Mary Gainer
Jacob Israel Hannah
Benny, Jack, John Inghram
Flip & Jennifer Marsh
Sharon PowersAlasha al-Qudwah
Carmen Mitzi Sinnott
Dr. Stephanie Skolik
Kenzie New Walker
Dr. Peter Wentzel
Don & Victoria Wilson
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