The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

May 7, 2003

(Photo: Sasha Waters)

UI Professor's Film To Air May 20 On PBS, Iowa Public Television

A documentary film by University of Iowa professor Sasha Waters will air nationally on the PBS program Independent Lens on May 20, including on Iowa Public Television at 11:30 p.m. The film, "Razing Appalachia," explores the controversial issue of mountaintop removal mining by following a grassroots fight to stop the process in West Virginia. Set in the town of Blair, in Pigeonroost Hollow in the misty folds of the Appalachian Mountains, the film follows the journey of several families as they struggle to protect their land.

In May 1998, Arch Coal, Inc. announced it would expand its Dal-Tex strip mine just above the small town of Blair. Rock and soil debris from a mountaintop mine stretching five square miles would bury Pigeonroost Hollow and creek. But lifetime residents said too many in their community had already been bought out or chased away by the gigantic mine. In the face of thunderous blasting and lung-choking dust caused by mountaintop mining, 40 families--where there were once 300--stayed in Blair. "Razing Appalachia" is the story of the fight between those families and the coal company, the state's political leaders and the 400 union miners whose jobs were on the line.

The film also digs into the history of coal in West Virginia, with archival photographs and films, and testimony from miners and families whose lands are being irreparably altered by strip mining. Following the completion of filming, this case is still being fought in the courts. In 2002, the Bush Administration came out in favor of mountaintop removal mining. Chief Judge Charles H. Haden II of the Southern District of West Virginia and families from across the state continue to oppose it.

Waters, an assistant professor of cinema and comparative literature in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has written and produced for film and television, including associate producing historical documentaries for the acclaimed PBS series American Experience. She has also independently produced audio documentaries for National Public Radio. Her first feature documentary, "Whipped," a feminist portrait of women in the sex industry in New York, screened at festivals across the U.S. and abroad. Her films and videos have been supported by the Jerome Foundation, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Lucius and Eva Eastman Fund and the Donnet Fund. Waters was a Fellow in residence at the MacDowell Colony in 1999 and 2002. She earned her MFA in Film and Media Arts at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Independent Lens is a weekly primetime PBS series that airs on Tuesday nights and presents American and international documentaries and a limited number of dramas. Each week Independent Lens presents a unique individual, community or moment in history to bring viewers gripping stories that inspire, engage, provoke and delight. The executive producer of Independent Lens is Sally Jo Fifer, executive director of Independent Television Service (ITVS), which funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the Web. ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACT(S): Media: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,; Sasha Waters, 319-353-2922, Program: Marjory Wentworth, ITVS, 843-883-0237,

Sasha Waters Web site:
ITVS Press Release: