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Witness
Bonecrusher
In the US state of Virginia, coal mining holds communities together while simultaneously destroying them.
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2011 12:59 GMT

Filmmaker: Michael Fountain

For most of the developed world, the thought given to where energy comes from usually goes no further than a light switch or a petrol pump.

But getting oil, gas or coal out of the earth has always been one of the most hazardous jobs. Along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains in the US, coal mining has long been the primary occupation, going back multiple generations in most families. It has shaped lives and fortunes - and in times of tragedy, has brought communities together to mourn.

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But what does it mean to survive decades of work deep in the coal mines? Is a lifetime of this hard labour, deep below the surface of the earth, the only way these families can survive?

In his revealing film, we examine the lives of the miners, and follow one father and his son bound to each other by their work in the coal mines of Virginia.

Filmmaker's statement:

"The original goal in making Bonecrusher was to tell a story about three generations of mine workers and coal mining. In particular it appealed to me because I heard they share a strong camaraderie and a love for their work even though it is quite dangerous and unhealthy.

This, of course, raised important questions like why would a father want his son to go into the mines if it is so dangerous and unhealthy? And what creates this camaraderie? What does it feel like?

My cameraman and I travelled to Dante, Virginia in early November 2005. It was election day. The local union head told me election day would be a great opportunity to meet miners. It was on that day I found a third generation miner named "Bonecrusher".

Over the next four years I went back down to the mines during important times in "Bonecrusher's" and his son's life.

Making the film I learned less about the coal industry and more about miners. I learned that most coal miners love their work. They take pride in the work, are paid well, love to joke with each other, and all of them will get sick (black lung, cancer) from it.

I learned that coal dust is not as bad on your lungs as ground-up rock. I learned that miners do not wear respirators because they are irritating. I learned that miners accept black lung as part of their job. I learned that the positives of mining - forming strong bonds, taking pride in your work, providing a decent life for your family - are more important to miners than the negative health effects of mining. 

I filmed the final scene in January 2009, only a week after my son was born. In February 2009, the film premiered at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival where my son and I sat in a dark and crowded theater to watch his first movie. He slept through most of the film ...."

Bonecrusher aired from Wednesday, February 2, 2011.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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