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‘Coal: A Love Story’ Captures a Panoramic Perspective on an Environmental Cause Celebre

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Mike Plante

Too often, the political landscape blurs into wide angle and you can’t see the individuals involved anymore. Films can bring humanity (and specificity) back to the political dialogue.

The interactive site, Coal: A Love Story, puts short film to use in an artistic and educational way. By connecting short docs about the coal industry’s history and the people involved on the ground, the website tells the big story in connected sections. (For a more panoramic view of the the issue, check out the 2011 SFF Documentary Competition feature, The Last Mountain, about Big Coal’s devastating impact on Appalachia).

Both the website and the shorts contained within it are artistically conceived and designed—stylish while laying out the facts and human stories. The short films show coal’s direct and indirect impact on a variety of people, from the miners at the ‘front lines’ to a teenager in a big city who wants to make a difference. Thousands of miles separate them, apt symbolism for the thousands of miles of cable wires that could possibly connect us all to this focal point of Coal: A Love Story, through the internet.

The information and people profiled on the site come across without the usual sanctimony or weighty brick attached. The emotion these shorts evoke comes from within. And the website’s interactive elements connect the viewer even deeper to the stories, images, and issues that might otherwise seem like other people’s problems. The website ends up delivering an experience that’s simultaneously educational and kid-friendly and incisively informative enough to guide adults through this thorny issue during voting season.

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Sundance Institute Piloting Direct Individual Support for Mediamakers Through the Sundance Institute | Humanities Sustainability Fellowship

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic upended life in general, and halted production and distribution for many creatives, the nonfiction field was plagued by issues of sustainability. For several years, sustainability has been an urgent and vigorous topic of study, debate, and organizing, as more and more filmmakers find it difficult, if not impossible, to make a living solely on the basis of their creative work. 

In Memoriam: Diane Weyermann (1955–2021)

A singular force within the documentary film world with a global reach, Diane Weyermann passed away at age 66 after battling cancer. Over the course of her 30-year career as a funder and an executive, her work elevated the documentary form and expanded its cultural impact.

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