Also, the film is being strongly promoted through national media coverage tied in with this week's Blair Mountain labor march and the huge anti-mountaintop removal rally planned for Saturday near the site of the historic labor battle.
The movie has problems, though. A bit of the effort to tell the story with Bobby Kennedy as the central character seems overly forced. Also, to fit into their narrative, the filmmakers ignore the fact that a major rulemaking change that helped mountaintop removal continue was started by the Clinton administration, not by George W. Bush.
The film also suffers from providing little of what I'll call "the other side," for lack of a better term. Sure, they included a set-up scene where Bobby Kennedy debates mountaintop removal with West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney. In that format, though, against someone as skilled as Kennedy, the scene is almost unfair to Raney.
It might have been better if the film included a scene like the one in "Talking Dirt," one of a series of new plays called "Higher Ground," about Appalachian struggles. The play, as The New York Times explained a few weeks ago, "offers an empathetic twist on its otherwise gloomy view of strip mining" with a talk between two high school friends, Beth and Roger.
"While Beth, who has been offered a scholarship, opposes strip mining, Roger, a young miner, shows her that her privileged status gives her the luxury to choose," the Times said. "'There wasn't anybody standing there offering me a scholarship when I graduated high school,' he tells her."
Overall, "The Last Mountain" is further proof of what the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., warned us about when he said mountaintop removal has a "diminishing constituency" not only in Washington, but also around the country.
Despite the cries from Appalachian political leaders and the public relations campaign by the coal industry, the Obama administration seems intent on enacting some much more serious limits on mountaintop removal. What's unclear is exactly what economic development Obama plans to put in the industry's place.
"The Last Mountain" promotes the possibility that putting wind farms on ridges like Coal River Mountain is the way out of this quandary. If so, such projects are certainly only part of the answer, and it's far from clear how far down the road a "clean energy economy" is for places like McDowell or Mingo counties.
Sen. Byrd reminded us before he died last June that, "Change has been a constant throughout the history of the coal industry. West Virginians can choose to anticipate change and adapt to it, or resist and be overrun by it. One thing is clear: The time has arrived for the people of the Mountain State to think long and hard about which course they want to choose."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.