Overburden Documentary Review

The documentary “Overburden,” directed and produced by Chad Stevens, is a moving tale that brings to light the devastating effects of the coal mining industry in West Virginia. While many documentaries have been produced on the coal mining industry, this is unique in that it tells the story through the eyes of two very different women in the community and how it has affected their lives.

Shot over the course of eight years, the movie follows the lives of two women and their families and the audience is able to see the effects of this industry happening to them over the course of almost a decade. When Betty’s brother is killed in a coal mining accident in 2010, she stifles her pride for the coal mining industry and teams up with a Lorelei, a coal mining activist and grandmother, to take down the large coal company responsible for the accident.

In the movie, the activists fight for an alternative to coal mining by suggesting wind power, a viable alternative they said seeing as the wind will blow forever so jobs will last forever. This represents not only the struggle in West Virginia but is also symbolic of the need for change in big industry. By utilizing clean energy alternatives, more jobs could be created around the country.

In a scene towards the end of the movie, both Betty and Lorelei visit the graves of their brother and husband respectively at Christmastime. Both men died from coal mining related injuries/illness and so this moment demonstrates the hurt that these communities go through. Despite knowing these dangers, the men go into the industry to support their families and often end up losing their lives because of it.

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