The film is based on investigative journalist Penny Loeb’s
2007 book, “Moving Mountains:
How One Woman and Her Community Won
Justice from Big Coal.” The filming wrapped up yesterday in Shepherdstown. West
Virginia Public Broadcasting caught up with Patricia Bragg and the actress who
portrayed her in the film, Theresa Russell.
“When they’re doing a scene you’re like, ‘I remember that so
well,’” Bragg recalls. “And it all clicks back in—the hurt and the pain. And
the barrier is there, like between us and our miners and our government. We’re
feeling like we’re just, I don’t know. Sometimes I look at it and I just cry.”
Patricia Bragg is a coal country resident and the heroine of
the film. Many scenes were shot on location in her home in Mingo
“I cried on set the other day,” Bragg says tearfully. “I had
been going to where they couldn’t see me, and I couldn’t get away fast enough
and the tears were just falling. I just kept thinking, I remember that energy.
That anger that she had when she was speaking and she was saying, 'the coal
companies don't care if they hurt your people.
"They really don't care if they
hurt your men.' She was going through it and I was thinking, I felt that way
and I didn't know how to communicate with the miners and I didn't know how to
make them understand that I wasn't against mining. Never had been. I loved this
land and I realize mining is important.”
Actress Theresa Russell says it isn’t her first film based
on historically accurate activities, but it is the first time she’s been so
embedded in the real-life world of the story that’s being portrayed.
“I’ve never really been in this area and until you are in
that area you really have no idea what it’s like. It almost felt like a
different country. Just in terms of the attitude. Like, my little bed and
breakfast, the coal train would just shake it all night long.They'd go there
empty and then they'd go full, empty, full, empty, full, 24 hours a day, and you just don't get a sense of what that's like.
"When you see these men
are crawling, literally on their hands and knees so we can just turn on a
light, and you really, as much as you think you make that connection, you just
don't. So that impact of how that transformed the people and their thought
process was really eye-opening. ”
The central struggle of the film is over community rights to
clean water. Bragg says some people in her neighborhood lost all their water
while she and others lost the quality of their water. Bragg says Rashes and
other illnesses were traced back to mine contamination.
“Well we wanted to make sure that when people were out of
water that water was supplied to them within a 24-hr period. Not just drinking
water, we wanted a capacity of water so that they could live comfortably until
whatever the problem was could be fixed.”
Bragg says it was painful to see her neighbors pitted
against each other over health and economics, but that she hopes it’s obvious
that core values ultimately are holding communities together.
“We had faith in God that our people would come back
together even though miners felt like they were on one side and we felt like we
were on the other. I believe God brought us back to an understanding and we
still live together in those communities and that makes me feel proud to be a
part of that.”
Russell says it’s her hope that viewers will walk away from
this film with a healthy appreciation of the breadth of the problem, and that
ultimately, there may not be a solution.
“You just have to honor the people and the place and the
page. That was important to all of us, to get that right.”
Meanwhile Bragg continues to make education the focus of her
efforts. She says her community met with a degree of success because they
worked so hard to educate themselves, other communities, government agencies,
and even corporate business heads.
“The big corporations, their owners are far away so we had
to educate them about our culture our life our geographic limitations so that
they would understand, we are here because of the love of the land. We’re not
here because it has coal in it. And we understand the importance of coal, but
the land is what the love is felt for.”