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King Coal / Caverna / Filling in the Blanks

King Coal

King Coal

Elaine McMillion Sheldon, the filmmaker behind the documentaries Heroin(e) and Recovery Boys, is back with another visually stunning collage of images and poetic meditations on the communities built around coal in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia.

The film explores the legacy of a region built on coal mining, as the industry continues to decline due to the consequences of building our economy and society on the foundation of fossil fuels, leading to an increase of occurrences and severity of climate change disasters.

Combining narrative filmmaking structures, poetic narration, and verite footage, the film focuses on the uncertainty of a new generation who no longer want to work in the mines. At its heart, the film is about a generational struggle. It portrays the pride of those who have accomplished meaningful work and provided for their families, while also seeking a better life for their children, away from the dangers of the mines.

The subjects of the film tell stories of black lung disease, mining accidents resulting in drownings and workers being crushed by collapsed mines, among other tragedies. It also depicts stories of union struggles, winning weekends, healthcare, and more, including the reality of only being able to buy from the company store and essentially being owned by the companies in the early days of American capitalism.

King Coal is a lush film that focuses on contradictions, it’s about struggle, survival, and humanity in all its beauty and pain.

King Coal is now playing in select theatres.


I don't often make this association, but some films feel like dreams. That comparison brings to mind films like “Being There” by Hal Ashby, “The Science of Sleep,” and other films by Michel Gondry. Sometimes these dreams take a dark turn, like the films of David Lynch. These films are often ethereal and lack structure, just like a dream and the same can be said for the new film “CAVERNA” by Italian filmmakers Hannah Swayze and Daniel Contaldo.

Surreal images are interspersed with a theatre group that uses acting as a form of trauma therapy. As a cyclops chases a process through the woods, monsters come to life, and bodies deform. The film explores the blurred lines between dream and performance, storytelling and myth, art, and nature.

CAVERNA is shot on beautiful 16mm film, and the camera flows through the movie with a similar curiosity as a verité documentarian, but with a decided aesthetic that pays tribute to the Giallo horror of Argento and Fulci, while embracing the surrealism of a David Lynch. However, the documentary-style approach lends a level of realism to an otherwise amorphous surrealist fever dream.

At just over an hour long, CAVERNA is a short and effective film. It took me to another world, and once I decided to get lost in the lush imagery and let it wash over me, it was incredibly enjoyable.

This film may not be for everyone, as it does feel almost like a collection of great songs mashed together, that could feel disparate. But if you let yourself be okay with not knowing exactly what is happening, you may find something profound in it.

Caverna a is now available on Video on Demand.

Filling in the Blanks

The new documentary "Filling in the Blanks" follows the story of Jon, a 54-year-old man who discovers a family secret through an at-home DNA test. After learning that his biological father is not the man who raised him, Jon sets out to uncover the meaning of family, the complexities of truth, and to meet his half-siblings and biological father.

While this film may lack experimentation and cinematic form in its narration, the heart and humanity it brings more than make up for it. I particularly enjoyed meeting Jon's family members and getting to know him. The story is a stranger-than-fiction tale that pulls you in and makes you contemplate how you would react in a similar situation.

Although "Filling in the Blanks" sometimes feels like a story being told rather than shown, it's a story worth listening to.

"Filling in the Blanks" is now available on Video on Demand.

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Joshua LaBure is a documentary filmmaker, radio producer and podcaster based out of Omaha, Nebraska. His experience includes having directed and produced several short films, two narrative features and two documentary features, with his works featured at the Lone Star Film Festival, The Bureau of Creative Works and other filmmaker showcases. His most recent documentary had a sold-out premiere and received a standing ovation at the Benson Theatre. Furthermore, he founded the Denver Filmmakers Collective, which hosted local filmmaker showcases, has served on jury for major film festivals and has hosted countless film screenings.
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