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Films on West Virginia and Appalachia

Steve Fesenmaier, director of the West Virginia Library Commission's Film Services unit, provided GOLDENSEAL with the following list of recently acquired films and videos about West Virginia and the Appalachian region.

1997 was one of the most interesting years for films about West Virginia, according to Fesenmaier. He says Shiloh, adapted from the Newbery Award-winning book about a West Virginia dog, is just one of many fine films. "Voices from Appalachia is without a doubt the most positive documentary ever made about Appalachians making their own lives better," Fesenmaier adds, "and despite great financial pressures, West Virginia film makers Gary Simmons and Mary Anne Reed directed personal statements about life in Appalachia."

To learn more about these new films and videos, or hundreds of others in the film library, call (304)558- 3977 or 1-800-642-9021 from inside West Virginia only. The homepage address is www.wvlc.wvnet.edu/film/vidcat.html. Film Services has the largest collection of mountain movies and tapes anywhere in the country. The list of videos printed here was drawn from nearly 75 recent productions brought to our attention. These videos and many others may be borrowed at public libraries throughout West Virginia.

Achieving Justice: A Century of West Virginia University Women in Law
55 min.
1997 WVU College of Law

A documentary video commemorating the 100th anniversary of women graduates from the West Virginia University College of Law. The program has a long and proud tradition of anti-discrimination among members of its community.

Best of the Soupy Sales Show
50 min.
1978 Rhino Home Video

Skits from the hit TV series of the '60s and '70s. Soupy Sales, who grew up in Huntington, hosts a variety of guests including Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. The film collection also has More Best of the Soupy Sales Show, a 1990 production, and the A & E biography video Prince of Pies: Soupy Sales.

Beyond Measure
58 min.
1995 Appalshop Film & Video

People in the heart of the Appalachian mountains know how to survive hard times. As jobs are lost, communities face an uncertain future. This film, the third in Appalshop's History of Appalachia series, documents the efforts of citizens rebuilding their communities.

Blind Thunder
60 min.
1996 Ten Point Productions

Join the Blue Ridge Sportsmen as they take you on six successful wild turkey hunts with close-up footage of the wild turkey gobbler. This video, which includes valuable techniques on turkey calls, was filmed in the mountains of West Virginia, Virginia, and Georgia.

Bomb Shelter at the Greenbrier Hotel
60 min.
1995 NBC-TV

From the television program Dateline, this is the story of White Sulphur Springs' world-famous resort, The Greenbrier, and its cavernous bomb shelter which was only recently revealed to the public.

Building a Cello With Harold
105 min. (16mm & VHS)
1996 Bob Gates

West Virginia native Harold Hayslett is a master builder of violins and cellos with instruments in the Library of Congress' Rare Instrument Collection. This documentary follows the building of a cello from start to finish and explores Harold's understanding of wood, his inventiveness, craftsmanship, and thorough knowledge of instruments.

Built on the Rock: The Southern Appalachians
60 min.
1997 Facets

Sixty old-time churches of the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains are profiled in four different seasons. Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Episcopal denominations are included.

Campbells Creek, West Virginia 1938-1942
60 min.
Robert E. Calderwood

Early scenes from Campbells Creek, Kanawha County, of miners at the Putney mines, the company store, kids waiting for the school bus, the church at Putney, DuPont High School, and local trains and cars of the era.

Cass & Mower - Logging Trains
90 min.
1997 Green Frog Productions

This tape shows Shay engines #2, #4, #5, and #6 - and a Heisler #6 at work at Cass. There are no tourist trains in this, just logging trains (captured by Robert Flack and Carl Franz) traveling 4,842 feet up Bald Knob. Some early history of the Mower Lumber Company is included, as well as some spectacular winter footage - some of it shot in blinding blizzards!

The Community Digs the Museum
15 min.
1996 Putnam Museum in the Community

This video, produced and directed by Danny Boyd, documents a five-day excavation by Putnam County eighth-grade students at the proposed site for the new museum in Valley Park. Students are taught basic excavation and analysis techniques.

Cross Roads
30 min.
1995 Cambridge

Provides an intimate look at the elements of a successful art exhibit. Following West Virginia artist Paula Clendenin, the viewer learns how the painter approaches her work both technically and thematically. Interviews with collaborators and curators address her elements of color, texture, and form.

Evelyn Williams
27 min.
1995 Appalshop

Evelyn Williams is a portrait of an Appalachian African American woman: a coal miner's daughter and wife, a domestic worker and mother of nine, a college student in her fifties, and a community organizer. Now in her eighties, Ms. Williams is battling to save her land in eastern Kentucky from destruction by a large oil and gas firm.

An Evening with Claude Frazier, M.D.
27 min.
1993 WSWP-TV

Dr. Claude Frazier is the author of Miners and Medicine: West Virginia Memories. The book is a personal account of growing up as the son of a coal camp doctor and nurse. Here he recalls life in coal camps in Montgomery, Ansted, and Welch and the "ties that bind" in small West Virginia communities.

Extra Innings
60 min.
1994 WSWP-TV

Profiles some of West Virginia's coalfield baseball players from the 1930's and '40's. This video takes a look back through extensive use of historic photographs and fascinating memories of the game and times.

Flood Relief - A Time of Need
60 min.
1996 WCHS-TV

West Virginia's devastating flood of January 1996 is shown through the eyes of Charleston television news station WCHS.

Getting Over Arnette
25 min.
1997 WNPB-TV

What do you do to distract yourself from the impossibly agonizing pain of romantic heartbreak? West Virginia author Pinckney Benedict (Town Smokes, Dogs of God) answers this question with unexpectedly bizarre twists. From the opening twang of Hank Williams' "Long Gone Lonesome Blues" to the end credit's defiant "Hard Headed Woman" by Wanda Jackson, this drama creates a rockabilly lovesick world of trailer courts, bowling alleys, and bars. WVU theater professor Jerry McGonigle directed the film adaptation and Laura Benedict wrote the screenplay.

The Gift Horse
25 min.
1997 WNPB-TV

Tom Nicholson directed this film adaptation of Denise Giardina's original screenplay. Ansel Sizemore wins the lottery and wants to donate the money for a music hall in Charleston on the condition it be named for his father, Earl "Froggy" Sizemore. Local art administrators are torn between the money and the "wrong name" for their local temple of high culture. Wickedly funny and poignant.

Hatfields and McCoys - An American Feud
50 min.
1996 A&E Home Video

It began in 1878 and took 12 years, 12 deaths, and one Supreme Court decision before it was over. The famous family feud between the Hatfields and McCoys involved a stolen pig, a forbidden love affair, a hanging, and several cold-blooded murders. Sensational coverage in the media brought the story out of the remote Appalachian hills into the public eye. Historians and family descendants help separate fact from fiction.

Holy Cow! Swami
180 min.
1996 WNPB-TV

Jacob Young, famous for creating Dancing Outlaw and the award-winning PBS series "Different Drummer," worked for years on this three-part documentary about the controversial Hare Krishna community near Moundsville. A cloud of legal troubles descended on the religious sect's Swami and his followers including allegations of murder and racketeering.

Inauguration of Governor Underwood
120 min.
1997 WOWK-TV

This is the complete coverage of Governor Cecil H. Underwood's historic second inauguration on January 3, 1997, exactly 40 years to the day after his first ceremony.

The Journey of August King
92 min.
1996 Miramax

Set in the mountains of western North Carolina in the 19th century, this film received acclaim from critics coast to coast for its celebration of the human spirit. Jason Patric is August King, a young man whose life is changed forever when he risks everything to help a beautiful woman (Thandie Newton) on a courageous - and very dangerous - search for a new life.

June Kilgore: A Retrospective
90 min.
1995 WVLC

June Kilgore is one of West Virginia's most influential artists, known for her abstract expressionist paintings and her years as a teacher at Marshall University. To honor her, the Division of Culture and History installed a retrospective exhibit of her work at the State Museum in Charleston. The West Virginia Library Commission documented the exhibit.

Justice in the Coalfields
58 min.
1995 Appalshop

This documentary demonstrates how current labor law has crippled the collective bargaining power of unions. It follows the United Mine Workers strike against Pittston Coal Company in 1988 and the events that followed igniting a community-wide sense of outrage. These events are given context through conversations with the rank and file, a federal judge, a public interest lawyer, and the coal company president.

Logging Railroads - Modeling the Prototype
60 min.
1996 Green Frog Productions

This video offers an in-depth look at the logging industry - how trees were cut, loaded, and unloaded at the sawmill. West Virginians will recognize Mower and Ely-Thomas operations.

The Minors
28 min.
1994 Jonathan Halperin

Stanford film student Halperin chose Bluefield as the subject of his documentary on minor league baseball. He captures the real world of small town baseball.

Mothman - The Point Pleasant Phenomenon
25 minutes
1996 CGL Productions

A local Mason County filmmaker explores the appearances of a strange "flying man with red eyes" in 1967.

Mountain Born: The Jean Ritchie Story
55 min.
1996 KCET-TV

Jean Ritchie, born and raised at Viper, Kentucky, is one of the best-loved folk singers and dulcimer players in the world. She trekked up hills and hollows to find the origins of the old folk songs she has recorded since the 1950's. Forty albums later, Jean Ritchie is still entertaining and educating audiences through the music of her Appalachian heritage.

Mountain Tells
29 min.
1996 WVLC

This three-tape series for children includes stories by Elk Valley librarian Susanna Holstein, Roane County storyteller Wanda Lou McInturff, and Doddridge County storyteller Bonnie Collins. Author Cheryl Harshman reads from her book, Sally Arnold, and from A Little Excitement. Other segments explore traditional hearth cooking and the cooper's shop at Fort New Salem in Harrison County.

Recreational Resources - State Parks In West Virginia
14 min.
1930's WPA

Professor Larry Sypolt at the WVU Institute for the History of Technology and Industrial Archaeology requested a West Virginia Library Commission film transfer from the National Archives of this film which was made by the Works Progress Administration and the National Park Service in the 1930's. It shows various state parks, The Greenbrier, and the State Capitol among other recreational resources.

Righteous Remnant: Jewish Survival In Appalachia
30 min.
1997 PBS-TV

Tom Sopher is a small-town merchant with a southern West Virginia accent. He is also a part-time softball coach who works to keep Jewish traditions alive in his town. Mary Ann Reed's documentary presents interviews with Sopher and others in chronicling Beckley's Jewish community.

The Rock That Burns
120 min.
1997 Spectra Media

Professor Stuart McGehee put together four programs on the positive aspects of life in West Virginia's coalfields. Gary Simmons, one of West Virginia's longest-working independent filmmakers directed the series. The first segment describes the value of coal, while the second studies life underground. Part three portrays life in company towns, and part four covers mining in the 20th century.

Shiloh
93 min.
1997 Warner Home Video

From the Newbery Award-winning book, Shiloh is the story of an abused beagle puppy living in West Virginia that runs away from his neglectful owner. A young boy named Marty (Blake Heron) is determined to save the dog and risks everything to do so against the wishes of his father (Michael Moriarty) and the dog's owner (Scott Wilson). Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun- Times called it "the best movie about a dog since Old Yeller."

Spring Hill Cemetery
60 min.
1994 Richard Andre

A historical view and walking tour by historian Richard A. Andre. Local actors play various roles of famous individuals who are buried in Charleston's Spring Hill Cemetery, one of West Virginia's largest and oldest cemeteries.

Tell About the South
90 min.
1997 James Agee Film Project

Six years in the making, Tell About the South is the first feature-length documentary film to describe and dramatize the story of modern Southern literature. A central question posed by the film is: How did the poorest, least educated, most troubled region in the country produce so many first-rate writers beginning in the early decades of this century? West Virginians Mary Lee Settle and Henry Louis Gates are among those profiled.

Uncovering the Covered Bridges
60 min.
1993 WSWP-TV

This story of covered bridges presents interviews with WVU's Dr. Emory Kemp, one of the country's foremost authorities on historic bridge technology. The video takes a specific look at the history and current status of remaining bridges in West Virginia and Virginia.

Vandalia: The Tradition Continues
60 min.
1996 Elderberry Productions

This is a sampling from the Vandalia Gathering, West Virginia's premier folklife event held each Memorial Day Weekend on the Capitol grounds. Dancers, musicians, craftspeople, and presenters are featured. Excerpts date back to the first Vandalia in 1977.

Voices of Appalachia - A Documentary
52 min.
1996 Family Theater Productions

Meet some of the unforgettable people of Appalachia in this video. Share their triumphs and challenges, their dreams and difficulties. In the West Virginia coal town of Caretta, a 17-year-old girl dreams of someday being elected governor, helping her community, and living out her life in the hills that she loves. Other "voices" include an older man struggling to organize a union as a way to offer dignity and justice for young workers. A woman, once a victim of domestic abuse herself, serves as an advocate for other battered women. These people share one thing in common: their love for Appalachia.

The West Virginians
25 min.
1996 West Virginia History Film Project, Inc.

This program is an extension of the documentary, West Virginia. It extends the story by revealing the independent spirit and solid value systems in West Virginians who have gone on to achieve greatness in many fields and in many parts of the world.