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Review: Documentary ‘Blood on the Mountain’ explores effect of West Virginia coal mining

‘Blood on the Mountain’
United Mine Workers of America Patriot Rally in Charleston, W.Va., from the documentary “Blood on the Mountain.”
(Jordan Freeman / Abramorama)

A grim documentary about West Virginia coal mining’s lasting effect on its citizens, “Blood on the Mountain” is either a fortuitous exploration of industrial wrath or a too-soon understanding spotlight on certain voters, depending on how you’re handling last week’s election results.

Wherever your curiosity lies, though, this sobering early autopsy of a dying business from filmmakers Mari-Lynn Evans and Jordan Freeman helps explain some of the psychology behind its region’s economically embattled actors, be they beaten-down miners, unregulated companies (former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, sentenced earlier this year to prison for conspiracy to violate safety standards, is the movie’s prime villain), or compromised state politicians.

Using interviews, archival clips, and a timeline of headlines and news footage, it tells a tale of violent capitalism on the one hand, as the history of unforgiving company towns and hard-fought unionizing gave way to an environmentally devastated land of terrible poverty and health issues. It’s also a story of sheer injustice on the other, with workers’ rights being stripped away over the years as billions in profits went elsewhere.

The movie is practically a textbook about how ravenous corporations and feckless government can strip-mine the souls of workers, and replace them with a political narrative about their problems that keeps reality forever hidden behind a fine, dusty fog.

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‘Blood on the Mountain’

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Not rated

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Playing: Laemmle Town Center 5

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