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New Documentary: Matewan, History From Below

February 26, 2020

Last May, 2019, I spent a week down at the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum setting up Boots On The Ground, a temporary exhibition I designed in collaboration with historian Chuck Keeney that focused on the US Army’s role in protecting private capital at the Battle of Blair Mountain (1921). A couple of days before I traveled south from my home in Pittsburgh, our Director told me that a filmmaker had arrived in Matewan who wanted to interview some folks with the museum. I have to be honest, when I’m deep in the work, the last thing I want is someone sticking a camera over my shoulder: it was going to be a busy week already! And I have to say, I’m not someone who likes watching myself talk on a screen.

Addison Post ended up being that filmmaker, and I liked him immediately. He was kind, he listened, and he was aware of the power of a video camera – when to have one in hand, and when to leave it in the bag, especially if you’re not from the area. You gotta understand that, especially in this most recent spate of negative national wondering about Appalachia, a lot of folks have shown up with cameras to get a quick-n-dirty poverty porn flick into their portfolio. But Addison wasn’t after that kind of film — he wanted to listen and he had an open mind, so we talked. A lot. His friend/collaborator Nick Curran joined him a few days later, and they filmed while they spent the week hanging in Matewan and watching the various ways that the memory of an event from 1920 is shaped in the 21st century.

The exhibit I was busy installing opened on Heritage Day in town, which is the annual anniversary of the Battle of Matewan, and folks turned out: that summer not only were we opening our new exhibit, but the popular annual outdoor drama about The Battle, directed by Donna Paterino since 2000, was again in full swing with two showings that day. Addison interviewed Donna, as well as Mine Wars Museum founding board member Wilma Steele and our Executive Director Kenzie New. Because I’m never busy enough, I also went out and created a couple of my Redacted Rubbings of some state historical markers around Matewan, and Addison and Nick followed me into the field.

Matewan, History From Below does real justice to the complexity of what it means to remember and celebrate a difficult, complex, and violent history. I’m proud to be included.

Matewan, History From Below is only available to watch on MeansTV, the very first worker-owned online streaming service. It’s a subscription, because you can’t “create a long-standing, centralized, worker-owned media infrastructure that reflects and empowers the working class” for free! So go subscribe to MeansTV, and watch this film.

Directed by Addison Post
Additional Photography by P. Nick Curran
Score by Carolin Pook

And: check out Addison’s Without Coal series of four shorts!


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