Buffalo Creek Flood: An Act of Man (Film)

Buffalo Creek Flood: An Act of Man

  •  Mimi Pickering
  •  1975
  • Color IconColor
  •  39:37
  •  16 mm film
Film Description
In 1972 a coal-waste dam owned by the Pittston Company collapsed at the head of a crowded hollow in southern West Virginia. A wall of sludge, debris, and water tore through the valley below, leaving in its wake 125 dead and 4,000 homeless. Interviews with survivors, representatives of union and citizen’s groups, and officials of the Pittston Company are juxtaposed with actual footage of the flood and scenes of the ensuing devastation. As reasons for the disaster are sought out and examined, evidence mounts that company officials knew of the hazard in advance of the flood, and that the dam was in violation of state and federal regulations. The Pittston Company, however, continued to deny any wrongdoing, maintaining that the disaster was an “act of God.” In 2005 Buffalo Creek Flood was inducted to the National Film Registry, an annual list of 25 films that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" to the United States.

Screenings & Festivals
  • American Film Festival
  • Chicago International Film Festival
  • Museum of Modern Art
  • National Film Theater, British Film Institute

This film was preserved by Appalshop Archive with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation, the Women's Film Preservation Fund, and the National Endowment for the Arts. To support the work of preserving and safeguarding the collections, please consider designating a donation to Appalshop Archive.


“A devastating expose of the collusion between state officials and coal executives … a powerful piece of muckraking on film.” — Newsweek
“Admirable for its ability to strike a balance between emotion and analysis, the film speaks to us on the human level of universal loss and suffering. But it is also a political film that reflects the decades of abuse and frustration experienced by miners and their families.” — Film Quarterly
“Outstanding! A very powerful film.” — St. Lawrence University
“Very accurately reflects the despair and frustration of a community caught in a web of corporate red tape.” — MediaDigest