Billboard in West Virginia sets the scene for
Billboard in West Virginia sets the scene for "Black Diamonds," in the Takoma Park Film Festival. (By Catherine Pancake)
Friday, November 17, 2006

Baltimore-based filmmaker Catherine Pancake has made a riveting and ultimately energizing documentary about coal mining in West Virginia, "Black Diamonds: Mountaintop Removal and the Fight for Coalfield Justice."

"Diamonds" -- which opens the Takoma Park Film Festival tonight and will be shown again Sunday -- plays like a modern-day "Civil Action," only this time the corporate baddies are the leaders and mouthpieces of the coal industry, and the grass-roots crusaders are poor Appalachian residents who are rich in courage and culture. In a scant hour-plus, "Black Diamonds" provides a thumbnail economic and political history of coal mining in the state, a textured portrait of Appalachian life and a convincing case for ending the environmental scourge of decapitating mountains to get to the coal buried inside them.

Free. 7 tonight. Film festival, through Sunday. Takoma Park Community Center, 7500 Maple Ave., Takoma Park. For schedule, http://www.takomaparkfilmfestival.org.

-- Ann Hornaday


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