Two friends find themselves on opposite sides of a battle over a mountaintop removal coal mine.
Deep Down is--without a doubt--the most moving and insightful film yet on the issue of mountaintop removal and it reveals the complexities of a rogue industry that is threatening much more than trees and mountains, but an entire way of life and the soul of a proud people. This movie provides heroes that can stand as examples in any fight for social justice. Deep Down is hugely intelligent, haunting, and moving. I wish everybody in America could see this film.
Beverly and Terry grew up like kin on opposite sides of a mountain ridge in eastern Kentucky. Now in their fifties, the two find themselves in the midst of a debate dividing their community and the world: who controls, consumes, and benefits from our planet’s shrinking supply of natural resources? While Beverly organizes her neighbors to stop Miller Brothers Coal from advancing into her hollow, Terry considers signing away the mining rights to his backyard—a decision that could destroy both of their homes. This tale of social change examines the environmental, human, and cultural impacts of our actions.
With extensive educational resources that include a virtual reality game, educational curriculum, discussion guides, and the People Power short documentary series (available only on the educational DVD), Deep Down is a useful teaching tool in courses related to:
Women's Studies & Leadership
Law & Public Policy
In Deep Down we see ordinary citizens successfully fight mountain top removal to keep their cultural landscape in tact. Though set in coal country, this film is about more than taking on king coal. It elegantly demonstrates the power of citizens’ action anywhere to curb big industry exploitation and greed. Local residents of this eastern Kentucky community liken the painstaking process of learning about their own legal rights and coal industry regulations to peeling back the tight layers of an onion. At the center is a sweet morsel of victory nestled next to terrible knowledge of how much has been lost and may yet be lost. The makers of Deep Down have captured a poignant moment in the natural and social history of central Appalachia. And they have given all of us the call to action within our own communities, wherever they may be.
Deep Down is a revelatory film, breathtakingly poignant and poetic, and goes beyond the politics of protest to look at the inexorably connected lives of Appalachian residents...
Incredibly resilient and prepared, Beverly May, who works as a nurse at a clinic for those without insurance, might be one of the most endearing and powerful anti-mountaintop removal spokeswomen in the nation.
Deep Down is flawlessly filmed and edited and the storyline ingenious. One could not have fabricated a finer heroic tale than this David and Goliath reality.
Deep Down is a good example of its genre, telling a story rather than explaining an issue. Compelling narrative dominates the documentary, complemented by sufficient scientific facts to drive home the prevailing message: Coal is dirty. This heartbreaking but ultimately heartwarming account of a small mining community weaves in humor, color, and suspense, making it well worth a look.
Deep Down is a great story out of the heart of Coal Country, and a different kind of documentary. [...] Viewers get an inside look at what goes on in a movement orchestrated by ordinary citizens.
Skillful pacing and well-chosen characters drive directors Jen Gilomen and Sally Rubin's story briskly through interviews, strategy sessions, committee meetings and town halls to a satisfying, though open-ended, conclusion.
I just watched the DVD and Wow. I have seen a lot of videos about mountaintop removal, and this one is just wonderful, easily the best of them. Every single character in it felt real. I love the focus on Terry Ratliff's decision, and his friendship with Bev May, alongside the larger policy issue. It gives *everyone* a level where they can do something. Terry's decision is particularly relevant to the Marcellus Shale landowners too.
I cannot say how glad I was to see their victory after watching about 30 films made during the last decade, starting with Bob Gates’ “All Shook Up,” showing Appalachians getting demolished by coal companies. As stated at the end of the film, the people like Beverly May are a model for all the other people in Appalachia who value their land more than a few dollars.
Most films about mountaintop-removal coal mining have emphasized its environmental destruction and been told overwhelmingly from the opponents' point of view. The latest cinematic treatment of the subject takes a different tack, looking at the controversy through the lives of two friends in Eastern Kentucky: one who opposes surface mining, the other who agonizes over leasing his land for it.
The documentary succeeds in putting a human face to mountaintop removal mining. It showcases the divides that the mountaintop removal debate caused in the community, and the struggles that residents went through to save their community – both the physical land and the relationships that tie the community together.
The film and multimedia outreach campaign explore the complexities of mining in the Appalachian region through an intimate portrait of one tight-knit community facing the economic and environmental impacts represented by fossil fuel extraction. Deep Down cuts across the issue and explores human friendship and the relationship of people to our planet.
The film unfolds like two cloggers taking their turn around the dance floor; evil looms, cloaked as the coal company seeking to buy up private land to turn into a mountaintop mining site; conflict emerges as the landowner waffles back and forth over selling to the coal company; and a proud, passionate heroine works tirelessly day and night to collect petitioners and speak boldly against the villain coal, all the while playing sweet mountain melodies on her companion fiddle.
We won’t give away how it ends, but it’s precisely this intimate look at the people directly affected by these decisions that makes the documentary so compelling. It tackles a big issue by going small, and whether you live in Appalachia or not, chances are it’ll make you think twice about leaving the lights on.
While Deep Down showcases an individual town’s struggle, the narrative thoughtfully touches on universal themes such as stewardship of God’s creation for the benefit of future generations, the importance of community and connection to place, and the problem of what to do when short-term needs and profit threaten to compromise the health and wellbeing of individuals, communities, and ecosystems.
The filmmakers tell their story with sensitivity and a strong visual sense. In one particularly arresting image, May and Ratliff, who are longtime neighbors and friends, perform a traditional mountain folk dance in which they come close but never touch. Their unassuming artistry conveys a combination of attraction and wariness, making it a vivid artifact of the Appalachian culture the mining is threatening to destroy.
Beautiful shots of the Kentucky countryside play off against Ratliff pointing out land effectively restored by a mining company. Deep Down may allude to the coal beneath Maytown. But it also alludes to the common values that its residents share.
Deep Down is a beautiful work -- as much a moving portrait of Appalachia as a powerful document on mountaintop removal.
It's a great source of pride to me to see average folks stand up and make extremely articulate arguments for their views -- on both sides. On film, Terry Ratliff courageously goes through the same mental debate that we all go through when we're facing an ethical decision. The beauty of this film is that it brings out the best, most thoughtful aspects of human nature as we confront the challenges of modern society.
Rather than punching through a list of statistics or slapping viewers with jarring scenes of devastation, Deep Down approaches the issue in a deeply personal way, looking at lives rather than landscapes, with passionate pleas for a better approach to coal mining. Especially interesting are the film's theological undertones. An early scene depicts a piece of mining machinery affixed with a JESUS IS LORD banner, a sign of the intersection of theology and creation care.