King Coal at Real Art Ways

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King Coal

“Elaine McMillion Sheldon’s poetic documentary King Coal is a lyrical tribute to the place she calls home.” –

King Coal  is not merely a history: it is a ghost story, an exercise in remembrance, and a cinematic archive.” – Film Daze

“Sheldon locates the beauty, potentiality and sorrow of this region to its surrounding mountain ranges, from forested rolling hills to the mounds of coal on river barges.” – The New York Times

“Haunted, personal, poetic, and spiritual.” – IndieWire


A lyrical tapestry of a place and people, King Coal meditates on the complex history and future of the coal industry, the communities it has shaped, and the myths it has created. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon reshapes the boundaries of documentary filmmaking in a spectacularly beautiful and deeply moving immersion into Central Appalachia where coal is not just a resource, but a way of life, imagining the ways a community can re-envision itself. While deeply situated in the regions under the reign of King Coal, where McMillion Sheldon has lived and worked her entire life, the film transcends time and place, emphasizing the ways in which all are connected through an immersive mosaic of belonging, ritual, and imagination. Emerging from the long shadows of the coal mines, King Coal untangles the pain from the beauty, and illuminates the innately human capacity for change.