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The Electricity Fairy

Distributed by Appalshop, Inc., 91 Madison Avenue, Whitesburg, KY 41858; 606-633-0108
Produced by Appalshop
Directed by Tom Hansell
DVD, color and b&w, 52 min.
Sr. High – Adult
Appalachian Studies, American Studies, Environmental Studies

Reviewed by Charles Burkart, Media Bibliographer, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
Date Entered: 1/7/2011

The Electricity Fairy follows the course of many recent coal documentaries pitting environmentalists against coal mining interests and local jobs verses ecological destruction. The title ”Electricity Fairy” refers to the mistaken belief that electricity comes from “magic” not from polluting coal mining.

The documentary follows the approval process of a new Dominion Power Plant in Wise County, Virginia. This fine documentary tries to avoid bias and strike the right balance between commercial energy concerns and environmental interests. Interested locals (Kathy Selvage) as well as regional environmentalists (Cale Jaffe) are interviewed along with Dominion energy representatives (James K. Martin) and regional administrators/politicians (Robert Adkins). A particularly valuable part of the Electricity Fairy covers the development and promotion of coal power by the Tennessee Valley Authority before and after the Second World War.

Where Electricity Fairy differs from other recent coal documentaries (“Burning the Future: Coal in America” 2008 and “Coal Country” 2009) is in its thoroughness and frank discussion of America’s energy future. It is the only film I know of to use the approval and construction of a new coal energy plant as a platform to a wider energy debate.

Electricity Fairy juxtaposes old energy company public service ads with interviews and background historical commentary. Some of the older documentary footage is slightly blurry and somewhat color saturated, but resent footage is clear and accurate. Sound is natural and always understandable. Editing is fast-paced and interesting throughout the 52 minute film. Appalshop maintains its reputation as the premier source of non print Appalachian materials. Chapter access is provided in the DVD, but subtitles for the hearing impaired are not.

I highly recommend The Electricity Fairy to high schools, public libraries, and universities in the Appalachian coal belt. Other venues in higher education should find it useful as well. The Electricity Fairy is a unique, informative film whose energy issues will remain current for some time.