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'The Last Mountain': Filmmaker Bill Haney Talks About Big Coal, Fighting Back, and American Character

Coal protesters in the film The Last Mountain
Coal protesters in the film The Last Mountain

Update: L.A. Opening Night information after the jump.

Flying into town from Boston, documentary filmmaker Bill Haney talked with L.A. Weekly about his new film, The Last Mountain -- a searing indictment of Big Coal companies that ruin the environment, lives, and people's health in the chase of major profits.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and ordinary West Virginia citizens -- all of whom are battling Big Coal and its political backers -- star in the documentary.

"The movie talks about the fact that our democracy is being taken from us," says Haney, "our environment is being taken from us, and our economic well-being is being taken from us."

Set in the Coal River Valley of West Virginia, The Last Mountain examines the everyday lives of the citizens who face serious health problems due to the mining and burning of coal in their towns, and how they attempt to fight back with the help of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., , the influential environmentalist and son of Robert F. Kennedy.

But Haney is quick to point out that the kind of controversial mining that's taking place in West Virginia -- called "mountain top removal" -- is happening across the country, with devastating effects.

"This is affecting the health of people across the country," says Haney, noting that water systems have been seriously polluted by mountain top removal. "This isn't just happening in Appalachia. This is happening everywhere."

Haney wants the film to be "dramatically engaging" and a "good watch" for audiences. It also offers a unique study of modern America, where greedy corporations are facing strong push back from regular folks who have little financial resources or political connections.

"They have extraordinary character," Haney says about the West Virginians in his film. "They're ordinary Americans, just like us. And they decided they're not going to take it anymore. They found something inside themselves and took on the most powerful people in the state."

The filmmaker says the struggle in West Virginia is a uniquely American story, and one that should remind people that they can make a difference, even when facing a battle against big corporations and their political supporters.

"America is a country created in its most inspiring way out of conflict," says Haney. "The big stories in American have almost always been about ordinary Americans doing something extraordinary."

Update: Opening Night for The Last Mountain in Los Angeles will take place on June 15 at The Landmark Theater in West L.A. Bill Haney and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., will take questions from the audience.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.


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