Thursday, February 25, 2010

Passenger Pigeons

Showing at SXSW: Passenger Pigeons, directed by Martha Stephens

Synopsis from the film's website:

Set among the coalfields of Eastern Kentucky, Passenger Pigeons is a story about finding hope and beauty in the dark hills of Appalachia. The film quietly interweaves four separate story lines over the course of a weekend as the town copes with the death of a local miner.

When his brother dies in a mining accident, Moses drives across country to bury him. He spends his weekend aimlessly wandering around the town he tried to forget, while reconnecting with his sister in-law and young nephew.

Buck and Nolan, two suits from the coal company, arrive in town to oversee the mine inspections. On the eve of his retirement, Buck trains his replacement, Nolan, on the ins and outs of the coal business. After a mix up with the motel reservations, the odd couple find themselves out of their element, camping in the woods.

With the mines shut down and the effects looming over, two young lovers, Elva and Jesse, go on a "vacation" a few counties away. Trying to forget the endless tragedy that comes with working in the mines, Jesse seeks escapism while Elva can only think of the dangerous possibilities if Jesse returns to work.

When a mountaintop removal protest gets canceled, a young activist from Washington, D.C. takes it upon herself to spread the message around town. Finding her attempts to explain the dangers of surface mining to be a lost cause, Robin is surprised when a retired miner takes an interest in what she has to say.

Themes such as mountaintop removal, pride, fatalism, and wariness of the outside coming in are delicately used to portray life in modern Appalachia.

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