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Eberly Roundtable discussion to focus on the film "King Coal"

The third-annual Eberly Roundtable, hosted by the WVU Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, will feature a screening of the film “King Coal” followed by a panel discussion with the filmmaker, WVU alumna Elaine McMillion Sheldon. 

This year’s event will kick off at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 9 in G20 Ming Hsieh Hall. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free, and the WVU community and public are invited to attend.

"The Eberly Roundtable models the importance and value of engaging in dialogue with one another across different disciplines and backgrounds about topics of public importance,” said Scott Davidson, a co-coordinator of the Eberly Roundtable and Director of Multidisciplinary Programs in the Eberly College. “This year's event is extra special because it features the work of a WVU alum who has used her education to produce a powerful and inspiring film."

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, imagining the ways a community can re-envision itself.

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.

Members of the WVU community will join McMillion Sheldon for a panel discussion after the film. Panelists include WVU faculty members Bradley Wilson, John Temple, Beth Nardella and Brooke Durham, as well as biomedical engineering student Riley Coulter.

Learn more about the discussion panelists and watch the “King Coal” movie trailer.

The Eberly Roundtable seeks to amplify Appalachian voices and the region’s importance in national discussions. It creates an environment to examine and discuss critical issues such as race, rurality, the changing nature of work, displacement, immigration, poverty and economic uncertainty from an Appalachian standpoint.

The event brings together academic and public scholars, artists and intellectuals to engage on a topic central to WVU’s land-grant mission and national identity.

“Director Elaine McMillion Sheldon's latest film contends with the ways the coal industry has molded so many people's lives in Central Appalachia, including her own,” said Jessie Wilkerson, Eberly Roundtable co- coordinator and Stuart and Joyce Robbins Distinguished Chair of History in the Eberly College. “Her gorgeous and genre-bending film examines how people in West Virginia and beyond formed a sense of collective identity around a mineral and its extraction. Sheldon follows in a strong literary and arts tradition in Appalachia and the South, resisting any notion of the region as static or stuck, and reveling in sparks of life and rituals of death.”

McMillion Sheldon is a 2009 graduate of West Virginia University. She is an Academy Award-nominated, and Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker. Sheldon is the director of two Netflix Original Documentaries – “Heroin(e)” and “Recovery Boys” - that explore America's opioid crisis. She has been named a Creative Capital Awardee, Guggenheim Fellow, a USA Fellow by United States Artists, and one of the "25 New Faces of Independent Film,” by Filmmaker Magazine. Her latest film, “King Coal”, premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. McMillion Sheldon was raised in West Virginia and lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The 2024 Eberly Roundtable is co-sponsored by the WVU Research Office, College of Creative Arts, Reed College of Media, Center for Resilient Communities, Humanities Center and the WVU Appalachian Advocacy Network.