Deep Down Explores the Human Impact of Our Voracious Appetite for Energy Through the Life of a Small Kentucky Town Where Coal is King

Film to Premiere on the PBS Series Independent Lens on Tuesday, November 23, 2010, at 10pm

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(San Francisco, CA)— Beverly May and Terry Ratliff grew up like kin on opposite sides of a mountain ridge in eastern Kentucky. Now in their fifties, the two find themselves in the midst of a debate dividing their community and the world: who controls, consumes, and benefits from our planet’s shrinking supply of natural resources? A very personal look at an issue affecting communities from coast to coast, Deep Down will premiere on the Emmy® Award–winning PBS series Independent Lens on Tuesday, November 23, 2010, at 10pm (check local listings). 

While Beverly organizes her neighbors to stop a coal mining company from advancing into her hollow, Terry considers signing away the mining rights to his backyard — a decision that could destroy both of their homes. Their once-peaceful mountain community of Maytown soon finds itself in a contentious battle over energy, and the wealth and environmental destruction it represents. At issue is the practice of mountaintop removal mining, in which explosives are used to blow up mountaintops, exposing the seams of coal underneath while destroying communities, cultures, traditions, and lives along the way. 

Mountaintop removal mining often divides communities like Maytown, where neighbors have existed peacefully for generations. While the mining companies provide much-needed jobs in areas with severe economic challenges, they also force people to make the choice between income and the health and safety of their communities. Through the richly nuanced story of Beverly May and Terry Ratliff, Deep Down explores issues of environment, economics, public policy, and culture, revealing the devastating impact of our energy consumption against an explosive backdrop: Appalachia’s centuries-old struggle over the black rock that fuels our planet. 

To learn more about the film, and the issues involved, visit the companion website for Deep Down at Get detailed information on the film, watch preview clips, read an interview with the filmmakers, and explore the subject in depth with links and resources. Also included is a “virtual mine,” an educational 3D environment, game, and educational curriculum for teachers, students, and anyone who'd like to learn more about mountain top removal, coal fired power production, alternative energies, and the amazing music and culture in the Appalachian mountains. The site also features a Talkback section where viewers can share their ideas and opinions. 

Featured On Air Participants 
Beverly May was born and raised on Wilson Creek in Floyd County. She has long served her community: as a family nurse practitioner since 1995, and as a member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth for 27 years.  

Terry Ratliff is a carpenter, chair maker, and father, whose family has lived in Floyd County, Kentucky for over four generations. 

Rick Handshoe, a neighbor and friend of Beverly May’s, works tirelessly to document the abuses by the local mining company that have dramatically affected him, his family, his neighbors, and his land. 

About the Filmmakers 
Sally Rubin (Co-Director/Editor) is a Los Angeles-based documentary film director/producer and editor. Her credits include The Last Mountain (regional PBS broadcast), Freedom Files (editor), a nine-part series for the ACLU produced by Robert Greenwald, Iraq for Sale (editor), and David Sutherland’s six-hour Frontline series Country Boys (associate producer). A graduate of Stanford University's MA program in Documentary Film and Video and a full time professor at Chapman University, Rubin is committed to social change through documentary film.  

Jennifer Gilomen (Co-Director/Cinematographer) is a documentary filmmaker and D.P., as well as Director of Public Media Strategies at the Bay Area Video Coalition, where she directs the public access television station and works in collaboration with public media entities, community organizations, and producers to develop innovative social media programs and initiatives. Her films have won awards and have been distributed nationally and internationally. David Sutherland (Executive Producer) is a critically acclaimed filmmaker whose series The Farmer’s Wife and Country Boys were seen by over 30 million PBS viewers. Sutherland is known for his documentary portraits, which command change via intimate observation. David provided story development support and overall guidance in all phases of the project. 

Nancy Golden (Co-Executive Producer) has a lifelong commitment to protect the environment for this and future generations, with over thirteen years of experience directing fundraising campaigns focused on national and international environmental issues. She currently serves as Development Director for NRDC’s Southern California and Western regions. 

About Independent Lens
Independent Lens is an Emmy® Award–winning weekly series airing on PBS. The acclaimed anthology series features documentaries and a limited number of fiction films united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement, and unflinching visions of their independent producers. Independent Lens features unforgettable stories about unique individuals, communities, and moments in history. Presented by ITVS, the series is supported by interactive companion websites and national publicity and community engagement campaigns. Independent Lens is jointly curated by ITVS and PBS and is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, with additional funding provided by PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts. The series producer is Lois Vossen. For downloadable images, visit For the program companion website, visit 


Voleine Amilcar, ITVS, 415-356-8383 x 244, 

Mary Lugo, 770-623-8190, 

Cara White, 843-881-1480, 

Posted on August 25, 2010