On Our Own Land (Film)

On Our Own Land

  •  Anne Lewis
  •  1988
  • Color IconColor
  •  29:00
  •  3/4" U-matic video
Film Description
In the Appalachian coalfields, broadform deeds have long been used to sever the ownership of mineral rights from the ownership of the surface land. Although surface mining was virtually unheard of at the time most of these deeds were signed, Kentucky courts ruled years later that the owners of such deeds could strip mine the land without the consent of the surface owners. On Our Own Land chronicles the citizens’ fight to have the broadform deed declared unconstitutional in Kentucky. The story unfolds through the voices of local people as the viewer meets a family determined not to move their father’s grave for strip miners, sees the rubble of a strip job “reclaimed” to the letter of the law, and watches as citizens protest strip mine abuses and push the state legislature for reform. This powerful documentary is recommended for discussion of effective citizens movements and grassroots political organizing, the environmental and economic “tradeoffs” associated with coalmining and industrial development, and the difference that sometimes exists between justice and the law.

Screenings & Festivals
  • Alfred I. DuPont/Columbia University Award for Independent Broadcast Journalism
  • American Film Festival
  • Athens International Film Festival
  • WNET/New York

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“Illustrates a conflict that won’t go away, in which the texture of community is pitted against the drive towards profit at any cost. Scrupuously balanced, it lets coal operators damn themselves with their own words.” — Pat Aufderheide, In These Times
“Captures the spirit of the people, the land, and the struggle … gets the point across legally and emotionally. Makes you want to become an active participant in the cause.” — American Film Festival
“Excellent for use … discussing political power and the power of people when they fight for what they believe in.” — South Laurel Junior High School, London, Kentucky