Chemical Valley

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Directed by: Mimi Pickering and Anne Lewis 1991 Running Time: 58:00 Color

On Dec. 3, 1984, the worst industrial accident in history occurred when a toxic gas known as MIC leaked from a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. At least 3,500 people were killed, and over 50,000 were permanently disabled. The tragedy in Bhopal brought international attention to the predominantly African-American community of Institute, West Virginia, site of the only Union Carbide plant in the United States that manufactured MIC.

Chemical Valley begins with Bhopal and the immediate response in the Kanawha Valley, an area once dubbed by residents "the chemical capital of the world" because of the many plants operating there. The program then follows events in the valley over the next five years as lines are drawn and all sides heard in the debate between those who fear for their livelihood and those who fear for their lives. Chemical Valley explores issues of job blackmail, racism, and citizens's right to know and to act as it documents one community's struggle to make accountable an industry that has all too often forced communities to choose between safety and jobs.


"If a picture is worth a thousand words, Chemical Valley is worth millions. It accurately portrays the air pollution horrors, as well as the arrogance, of industry." -Norm Steenstra, Director, West Virginia Environmental Council

"Ultimately Chemical Valley is about freedom of information: why we need it, how to get it, how to interpret it. It is also a powerful exposition of how women cope with threats to families, job, health, and communities, even when most of the people defining the issues happen to be men." -John Alexander Williams, Professor of History and Director, Center for Appalachian Studies, Appalachian State University

"Excellent footage of community meetings, regulatory hearings, and public relations events effectively contrast the anger, frustration, and sense of powerlessness of many citizens with the responses of industry defenders." -Booklist

"A film put together with skill and clarity. Remarkable interviews, sense of place, and pacing throughout. Integrity and intelligence of exceptional quality." -juror, American Film and Video Festival

"A compelling case study in the environmental racism that marks the distribution of environmental costs and benefits in our society." -Tom FitzGerald, Director, Kentucky Resources Council

Screenings & Festivals

PBS National Broadcast on "P.O.V."

American Film and Video Festival--Blue Ribbon Winner

Aveda U.S. Environmental Film Festival

Athens International Film and Video Festival--Award Winner

Big Muddy Film Festival--Special Jury Award

Chicago International Film Festival--Merit Award


Council on Foundations Film and Video Festival

EarthPeace International Film Festival--Best Environmental Film

San Francisco International Film Festival--Honorable Mention

Women in Film Festival/American Film Institute

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