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by Michael Fountain

An intimate journey inside the lives and work of coal miners.

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American Library Association 2012


In the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, a young coal miner named Lucas Chaffin toils one mile underground. Despite the harsh working conditions, Lucas takes fierce pride in the fact that he's carrying on a family tradition.  As a fourth-generation miner, working inside the earth is more than just a job to Lucas.  He believes it's his duty; a responsibility symbolized by the old coal hammer that he uses.  It is the same hammer that was used for 26 years by the man he loves more than anything: his father, Luther Chaffin. 
Luther—nicknamed “Bonecrusher” — was once a strong, handsome man. But now, at 61, he’s withered and sick; coal dust has ravaged his lungs. As life slips away, his greatest concern isn’t for himself; it's for Lucas's safety.

Bonecrusher is an intimate account of the love between a father and son and the powerful bond they share, a bond that is put to the test.  It is also a stark journey to the coal fields of Dante, Virginia where a tight-knit community of miners face life with a toughness and camaraderie as enduring as the earth itself.



quoteThis intimate program examines the lives of the miners. Cameras follow the men as they travel deep underground, crawl through tunnels, and chip away at coal. A compelling documentary.
Candace Smith
full review

quoteBonecrusher is the best contemporary portrait of an underground miner that I have seen ever.
Steve Fesenmaier
Charleston Gazette

quote*Television producer Fountain’s (West Wing) debut full-length documentary tells the captivating story of 62-year-old ex-coalminer Luther “Bonecrusher” Chaffin and his adoring 24-year-old son, Lucas, who is stubbornly committed to carrying on the family tradition of working in the mines of Dante, VA, despite the health and safety risks. These are proud, likable, and candid men who don’t hide their emotions as they give viewers an unflinching look at the realities of life in and around the mines of their impoverished but close-knit rural town. Nothing is sugarcoated or romanticized in this raw and gritty film, which follows Luther’s battle with black lung disease and cancer and Lucas’s struggle to come to terms with his father’s mortality and the physical and mental hardships of his chosen profession. There are no happy endings here. This must-see film is one of the better recent documentaries on the American South; highly recommended for all audiences. *Starred Review
Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia
Library Journal
full review

quoteBonecrusher shines a light on our hidden workforce. College students who study law, environment, health professions, government and policy would be well-served to gain insight into the community profiled in Bonecrusher. A terrific film.
Bette Jacobs, Dean, School of Nursing and Health Studies, Georgetown University

quoteBonecrusher compellingly details the dangers of coal mining, the sequences in the dark underground channels where men walk hunched over while breathing coal dust are truly harrowing.
P. Hall
Video Librarian

More Reviews


  • American Library Association 2012


  • Best Documentary Critics Award

    2010 Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival

  • Best Documentary Winner

    2010 Jack Spadaro Documentary Award

  • Best Documentary Runner-Up

    Appalachian Film Festival 2009

  • Best Documentary Runner-Up

    Asheville Film Festival 2009

  • One World Film Festival 2011

  • San Francisco Independent Film Festival 2010

  • Bradford International Film Festival 2010 (England)

  • Big Sky Documentary Film Festival 2009

  • BendFilm Festival 2009

  • FilmFest DC 2009

    Voted in the top five for audience favorite

  • Maryland Film Festival 2009

  • Pare Lorentz International Film Festival 2009

  • Rehoboth International Film Festival 2009

  • Southern Appalachian International Film Festival 2009

  • University of Montana Peace & Justice Film Series 2009

Visit the official website for Bonecrusher


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