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Elaine McMillion Sheldon
Shane Boris, Heather Hannah, Logan Hill
Not Available
Cottage M, Drexler Films, Fishbowl Films
1h 20min
Not Available
Awards, 7 wins & 8 nominations
The PlaylistMarya E. Gates

Sheldon is a coal miner’s daughter, and her brother is a fourth-generation miner. Coal is intrinsic to her family. This is the story of her people, a celebration of their traditions, a condemnation of an economic system that failed them, and an elegy for a waning way of life.

The New York TimesRobert Daniels

In this melancholic, thoughtfully attuned cinematic essay, no mountain is more important than the people who are still confined to the claustrophobic tunnels of the past.

The Film StageJohn Fink

It offers no easy answers while spinning an evocative web of ideas, treating the mineral and all that follows as a religion complete with sacrifices.

Wall Street JournalKyle Smith

Filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon, a native of the state, has done a breathtakingly expressive job of capturing the strangeness, the beauty and the devastation of her homeland in the poetic, entrancing documentary King Coal.

IndieWireKatie Rife

King Coal goes deeper into the cultural roots of the opioid crisis, looking at a region both devastated and nurtured by “the King” and asking what a future without it might look like.

RogerEbert.comMonica Castillo

Filmed in Central Appalachia—including the director's home state of West Virginia—King Coal moves beyond shallow impressions of the region with a real love for her neighbors and prodding questions about what it means to identify with an industry that has harmed and exploited generations of families.

Paste MagazineJacob Oller

King Coal might not be an invigorating, fire-lighting work like Harlan County, USA, but it is still a startling piece of anthropology: An expression of a place and a people, and their local god, ruler and captor.

American Society of Cinematographers, USA2024

2024 Winner ASC Award, Curren Sheldon


2023 Nominee Golden Frog, Curren Sheldon (cinematographer)

Cleveland International Film Festival2023

2023 Nominee Global Health Competition, Elaine McMillion Sheldon

International Documentary Association2024

2024 Nominee IDA Award, Curren Sheldon

RiverRun International Film Festival2023

2023 Nominee Jury Prize, Elaine McMillion Sheldon
2023 Winner Best Cinematography, Curren Sheldon

Seattle International Film Festival2023

2023 Nominee Documentary Competition Award, Elaine McMillion Sheldon
2023 Winner Special Jury Prize, Elaine McMillion Sheldon

Sundance Film Festival2023

2023 Nominee NEXT Innovator Award, Elaine McMillion Sheldon

Woods Hole Film Festival2023

2023 Winner Director's Award for Cinematography, Curren Sheldon

Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival2023

2023 Nominee Best Documentary, Elaine McMillion Sheldon
2023 Winner Best Documentary - Special Mention, Elaine McMillion Sheldon

Cinema Eye Honors Awards, US2024

2024 Nominee Cinema Eye Honors Award, Curren Sheldon

Film Club's The Lost Weekend2023

2023 Winner Lost Weekend Award, Elaine McMillion Sheldon (director)

Flyover Film Festival2023

2023 Winner Jury Award, Elaine McMillion Sheldon