Documentary filmmaker to present After Coal at Union College

Published on
March 15, 2016

After Coal A documentary that profiles eastern Kentucky’s transition from a coal-based economy will be featured on the Union College campus on March 29. The documentary filmmaker, Tom Hansell, will host classroom discussion on the topic and be available during the showing of After Coal.

After Coal, a documentary essay, explores the Welsh and Appalachian experience with coal mining, profiling inspiring individuals who are creating a new future for these hard hit communities. Viewers will meet former miners using theater to rebuild community infrastructure and spirit, women who moved from supporting striking miners to creating their own future and young people striving to stay in their home communities. Music and language specific to each culture underscores stories of tragedy laced with hope, revealing the uncommon strength that has allowed these two cultures to survive in the harshest conditions.

“I believe that comparing the Welsh and Appalachian experience with coal will help us see a future beyond fossil fuels,” Hansell said.

Dr. Hugo Freund, Union Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences, is helping to organize the After Coal screening on the Union campus. He has invited Hansell to his People of Appalachia classroom to discuss this topic and others pertinent to the Appalachian region with students. Dr. Freund hopes the topic and subsequent discussion will allow students “to become intrigued by their heritage and look for ways in which they can shape their own communities.” 

“I think all students on campus can see the benefits of conducting documentary research in Appalachia and, secondly, can gain a vision for looking forward in our communities instead of relying on the past,” Dr. Freund said.

Hansell says the roots of the After Coal project date to 1974, when political sociologist John Gaventa initiated a video exchange and conversation between coal miners in Wales and Appalachia. Appalachian scholar Helen Lewis expanded the exchange when she travelled to Wales in 1975 to research coal mining culture. Working with filmmaker Richard Greatex, Gaventa and Lewis made over 150 videotapes of daily life in South Wales. Historian Hywel Francis helped to provide support for the After Coal team.

After Coal picks up on the Welsh stories and weaves profiles of inspiring individuals who are building a new future in the coal fields, both in Wales and eastern Kentucky. Hansell’s documentary invites viewers to the front lines of the transition away from coal and shares stories of coalfield residents who must abandon traditional livelihoods in the face of a changing economy.

The documentary will be shown on Tuesday, March 29 in Union’s Rector Little Theatre. The film will begin at 7 p.m. Discussion and a reception will follow the screening. The event is being organized and sponsored by the Union College President’s Office, Office of Academic Affairs and Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

After Coal is a project of the Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachia State University and is funded in part by the Chorus Foundation, the West Virginia Humanities Council and United States Artists. For more information about After Coal and to view the trailer, visit

For further information please contact Hugo Freund 606-546-1324 or email