King coal sos still

Elaine McMillion Sheldon

Director of KING COAL


Yance Ford



Sara Dosa


King Coal— Envisioning new possibilities: How art expands our capacity to dream

When presented with humanity's most seemingly intractable obstacles, we often feel trapped in simply choosing the lesser of two evils. Art liberates us to think outside of that binary, and allows us to envision what truly successful solutions might look like. In our most deeply-embedded wounds – be they scientific or sociologic—art prompts us to dream of what true healing and true thriving could look like.

Film Synopsis

The cultural roots of coal continue to permeate the rituals of daily life in Appalachia even as its economic power wanes. The journey of a coal miner's daughter exploring the region's dreams and myths, untangling the pain and beauty.

    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.

    While deeply situated in the communities 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.