Hard Road Of Hope

West Virginia...that's just like the epicenter of the opioid problem, right? And home to a bunch of hillbillies who vote for Trump? And the totally corrupt politicians who just let coal and gas do whatever the hell they want? What could you possibly have to say about West Virginia that's worth hearing?

These are some of the questions I've gotten from people when I told them I'm doing a longer-form piece on West Virginia. Heads cocked to the side like confused dogs, they emphatically demand that they already know what it's about, already know the stories, the characters (whom they don't like), so why bother? I might as well do a piece on why slavery was bad or how the earth isn't flat.

Ironically of course, they've answered their questions by asking them. Folks hear a lot, but they know a lot less. And hey, that included me too. Coal mining, then fracking, trailer parks and people with giant Trump flags in their yards. That's it, right? Truly, scathing headlines and punch lines about West Virginia are a dime a dozen. And the forgotten and isolated rednecks of West Virginia are familiar with this attitude. Indeed, it goes back to the very founding of the state as a throwaway resource colony.

So, there you have it. This is worth hearing because few so far have bothered listening. And this failure not only discards people and places in a manner corporate execs would applaud, it amputates us from our shared history, the understanding of our present and the ability to shape the future. Yes, West Virginia is home to pain, suffering, oppression, corruption and bigotry – but so is the whole country. And more than a microcosm of our agony, West Virginia is an example of radical resolve. Proud rednecks, the people are still fighting and building in the hills and hollers; working to connect their past to a broken present and the potential future that we all share. It's a hard road of hope, a pot-holed and puddled path past the Kings of coal and gas, but they keep walking. We would do well to walk with them for a while – and listen.

Cast of characters

in order of appearance

  • Paul Corbit Brown
  • President and Chair, Keepers of the Mountain
  • Wilma Steele
  • Board Member, West Virginia Mine Wars Museum – Matewan, West Virginia
  • Chad Cordell
  • Coordinator, Kanawha Forest Coalition
  • Terry Steele
  • UMWA Local 1440 Member, Former Miner
  • Linda Ireland
  • Resident, Doddridge County, West Virginia
  • Mirijana Beram
  • Resident, Doddrige County, West Virginia
  • James Beatty & Lynn Beatty
  • Residents, Doddridge County, West Virginia
  • Kimberly McCoy
  • Docent, West Virginia Mine Wars Museum – Matewan, West Virginia
  • Jen Deerinwater
  • Executive Director, Crushing Colonialism
  • Directed, Written and Produced by
  • Eleanor Goldfield
  • Audio and Video Post Production by
  • Chris Owens
  • Original Music by
  • Michael John Adams
  • Photographs and video by
  • Eleanor Goldfield
  • (unless otherwise noted)

Special thanks

Our work is made possible via patrons. We have no backing from any media outlet, any organizations or any corporations. We don't do this for the money, and it takes money to get it done. Anything you can give to support our work is hugely appreciated and goes straight in to creating more content like this.

A partial list of patrons who made this project possible

Filmed in, at and around Charleston, Pax, Kayford Mountain, Matewan, Clarksburg, West Union, and Parkersburg, West Virginia.

About the Filmmaker

Eleanor is a creative activist and journalist. Her work has appeared on Free Speech TV where she produced and hosted the weekly radical news show, Act Out! for five years. Her print work has appeared via Mint Press News, ROAR, Popular Resistance, RT and more.

She is the host of the podcast Act Out! and the co-host of the podcast Common Censored along with Lee Camp.

Besides touring, performing and media work, she assists in frontline action organizing and activist trainings.