Ten Essential West Virginia Films 
by West Virginia Filmmakers

November 2002

Steve Fesenmaier
Research Librarian
West Virginia Library Commission


I got the idea for this list from the list that Oxford American created for its recent film issue on Southern films. There are several criteria - first, of course, that it is about WV. Second that the filmmaker is a West Virginian. I had to stretch this a bit for Chemical Valley, since Mimi Pickering does not live in WV. She did live in WV for a month or so while shooting the film. However, the fact that the film is about such an important event linked to WV - the Bhopal Disaster - makes me include it. Also, this list is a guide for all of WV's libraries who want to include films about the state that have stood the test of time...except for two new films, which have stood the test of time instantly since they have been shown to WV crowds. I hope that all of WV's 176 public libraries can acquire these films, and make them available to their community, promoting their use. They should be studied in all of our state's schools, and hopefully people who are from the state can acquire them, and also watch them. All of the films are available - that was another key criterion. WV's own filmmakers have made so many wonderful films, and thanks to Graffiti and Goldenseal, thousands of readers have learned about them in my writings. I am very disappointed, though, when I check the union list of all items in our state's libraries - for whatever reason, our libraries have not spent much of their scarce materials budgets on buying these videos. I hope that this list may help change the current situation. (Two additional lists completed at the same time are Ten Essential Documentaries About WV NOT by WV Filmmakers and Ten Greatest Feature Films About West Virginia.)

1.  DANCING OUTLAW. (The director's cut) - In 1991 Jacob Young made a twenty-five-minute portrait of Jesco White, a WV mountain dancer. The film has sold thousands of copies, and has been shown all over the U.S. This film presents one kind of person that everyone knows, whereever they live...Excellent for discussion of Appalachian stereotype, working-class stereotype, etc. Distributor - Flower Films. $ 49.00 http://www.lesblank.com/ 

2.  MORRIS BROTHERS OLD TIME MUSIC FESTIVAL. In 1980 Robert Gates, WV's leading independent filmmaker, released this film and video about one of the state's most important folk music festivals, held from 1969 to 1973. This film captures the music and mood of the 1972 festival. It features about thirty musicians, many of whom have since died, including John Martin, Aunt Minnie Moss, and Uncle Homer Walker. Contact Omni Systems, Charleston, WV, 342-2624 

3.  ASHES TO GLORY. 2001. Deborah Novak and John Witek made this film about the worst sports disaster in American history - the airplane crash that took the lives of almost all of the members of the 1970 Marshall football team. It traces the events that led up to the disaster, the actual disaster, and how the team rebuilt to become the most successful football team in American college football history. http://www.wvpubcast.org/videos/ $29.95 

4.  PARADISE PARK. (or Heroes of the Heart) 1996. WV filmmaker Daniel Boyd directed two previous independent films. From the film's website - "An elderly resident of an Appalachian trailer park wakes up one morning with a vision that God will visit the park later that evening and grant all the tenants a wish. The love-hate relationship this memorable group of wonderful characters have with their impoverished existence surfaces, in funny, often bittersweet ways, as the effects of floods, unemployment and family strife trigger fantasies of love, wealth, elaborate song and dance numbers and dreams of what's yet to be. Does God make it to the trailer park? Well, one thing's for sure, Life will never be the same in Paradise Park." http://www.amazon.com $15.95 or less used 

5.  CHEMICAL VALLEY. 1991. Mimi Pickering, one of the founders of Appalshop, lived in WV at different times in her career. She spent a lot of time in the Kanawha Valley while making this environmental documentary about the link between the Union Carbide plant in Charleston and the Bhopal plant in India. In Bhopal there was a toxic leak of MIC, killing hundreds of people and seriously affecting thousands. This film shows how plant workers, activists, and others in Charleston reacted to the disaster. $24.95 home use http://www.appalshop.org/film/ 

6.  OUT OF THE STORM. 2001. B.J. Gudmundsson grew up in Pocahontas County, a relative of Pearl Buck. She learned about the Galford Lumber Company's move to New England in the 1930s.  They helped harvest millions of trees that blew over in the real "Storm of the Century." $24.95 online at http://www.patchworkfilms.com/cat/catorder.htm 

7.  MOUNTAIN MEMORIES. 2002. Ray Schmitt has retired to Hardy County, taking his extensive filmmaking skills with him. In 2001 and 2002 he filmed this portrait of WV native son Jim Clark, who grew up in War, McDowell County. Clark has traveled the world and become a leading outdoor photographer. This portrait shows him visiting his mom in War, and his new home in the Shennadoah Valley, near his beloved WV. $24.95 online at http://www.patchworkfilms.com/cat/catorder.htm 

8.  WEST VIRGINIANS AT WAR. 1995. Russ Barbour directed this feature-length documentary about the extensive contribution West Virginians have made to our country's various wars. http://www.wvpubcast.org/videos/ $29.95 

9.  THE GRIFFIN AND THE MINOR CANON. 2002. Brad Stalnecker animated this version of a children's story by Frank Stockton. Stockton is also famous for his story, "The Lady, or the Tiger?" He spent the last years of his life living in the state. This animation uses WV actors' voices, and was completely created inside the state. http://www.wvpubcast.org/videos/ $29.95  

10. FIDDLES, SNAKES, AND DOG DAYS. Gerald Milnes, assistant director of the Augusta Heritage Festival in Elkins, made this hour-long documentary on WV's homegrown culture. More than 30 of our state's "treasurers" are shown presenting their great skills with their instruments, dancing, singing, and other amazing abilities. http://www.augustaheritage.com/store.html $25.00

Additional AppLit Resources: 
Complete List of AppLit Pages on Film

Steve Fesenmaier's Annotated Bibliographies of West Virginia and Appalachian Films

See Also:

Appalachian Film and Television Topics
Dr. Stephen D. Mooney, Instructor, Department of English and Appalachian Studies Program, has compiled a list of film and television shows for his Appalachian Studies Classes at Virginia Tech, VA.   

Appalshop For a complete catalog, contact the Appalshop Marketing and Sales Office at 1-800-545-7467 or appalshopsales@appalshop.org.

Davenport Films and From the Brothers Grimm  
American versions of classic folk and fairy tales, many Appalachian.  Davenport has also made many other Appalachian films.

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
, Huntington, WV

Press release from September 9, 2002, entitled “World premier screenings at Flooded Out Film Festival
All proceeds from Oct. 10 event go to flood victims”

West Virginia Film Makers Film Festival

Winning Festival Films, background information on the first festival, local history, links to sponsors, links to information on film such as The Griffin and the Minor Canon, The Night of the Hunter, Invasion of the Space Preachers, etc.


West Virginia Filmmakers Guild 

The West Virginia Filmmakers Guild was created in 1985 to provide networking and communication between West Virginia film and video makers and those interested in these crafts in West Virginia. Central to its mission is educating the public and promoting West Virginia filmmakers and their films to the public.

Created:  12/06/2002
Last Update:  07/07/2003 12:39:46 PM
Links Checked:  07/07/2002