The West Virginia Division of Culture and History will continue its Cultural Heritage Lecture Series with filmmaker and producer Mimi Pickering for Appalshop, Inc., on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2006 at 7 p.m., in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater at the Cultural Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. Pickering will show her two films about the Buffalo Creek disaster and give a talk entitled “Do Social Documentaries Influence Anyone?” She will be joined by Jack Spadaro of Hamlin, former superintendent of the U.S. Department of Labor’s National Mine Health and Safety Academy, and the staff engineer for the governor’s 1972 inquiry on the disaster.
The Buffalo Creek Flood: An Act of Man (1975, 40 minutes) chronicles this 1972 disaster which killed 125 people and left 4,000 homeless when a coal-waste dam collapsed at the head of a hollow in Logan County. Interviews with survivors, representatives of union and citizen’s groups, and officials of the Pittston Company are combined with actual footage of the flood and scenes of the ensuing devastation. Last year, librarian of Congress John H. Billington chose the film to be added to the National Film Registry.
Buffalo Creek Revisited (1984, 31 minutes) was filmed 10 years after the flood and looks at “the second disaster on Buffalo Creek,” in which the survivors’ efforts to rebuild the communities shattered by the flood are thwarted. The film explores the psychology of disaster, the importance of community, and the paradox of poor people living in a rich land.
Pickering has been producing films and videotapes at Appalshop since 1971. Her documentaries often feature women as principle storytellers, focus on injustice and inequity, and explore the efforts of grassroots people to deal with community problems andwork for change. She is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and two Kentucky Arts Council Fellowships, as well as media production grants from the American Film Institute and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities.
Other films Pickering has directed include Chemical Valley which was broadcast on the PBS series POV; Dreadful Memories, which tells the life and times of traditional singer and radical songwriter Sarah Ogan Gunning; and Hazel Dickens: It’s Hard to Tell the Singer from the Song, a portrait of this National Heritage Award-winner described by the Washington Post as “a living legend of American music, a national treasure,” among others.
Pickering also directs Appalshop’s Community Media Initiative, which works with grassroots groups and public interest organizations to develop and implement communication strategies in support of social and economic justice organizing and policy change.
Appalshop, Inc., is a multi-disciplinary arts and education center in Whitesburg, Ky., producing original films, video, theater, music and spoken-word recordings, radio, photography, multimedia and books. The center is dedicated to the proposition that the world is immeasurably enriched when local cultures garner the resources, including new technologies, to tell their own stories and to listen to the unique stories of others.
For more information about the Cultural Heritage Series, call (304) 558-0162. Next month’s talk will be on Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m., and will feature Ann Hagedorn, author of “Beyond the River: the Untold Story of the Heroes of the Underground Railroad.”
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. The Cultural Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. Visit the Division’s website at www.wvculture.org for more information about programs of the Division. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
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Media Note: Mimi Pickering can be reached at Appalshop at (606) 633-0108 or