<i>The Last Mountain</i>
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in The Last Mountain
(Credit: Eric Grunebaum)

When you switch on a light, watch your television or charge your iPod, I’m sure that you never really stop and think about where that energy is coming from. Fifty percent of our energy comes from coal, which is rapidly depleting and retrieving it is destroying our natural ecosystems.

Director Bill Haney and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. worked tirelessly on the documentary The Last Mountain to show that we need to understand and be aware of this disengaged relationship. The story follows the local townspeople of Coal River Mountain, W. Va., who decided to stand up and fight against the coal industry.

“This is a complicated tale, we feel that these are people far, far away, yet we make decisions that directly affect us without realizing it,” states Haney. “We shouldn’t be disconnected from those consequences.”

“I try to make movies that would move an audience the same way they would move me. I find stories of ordinary people who press into finding things in their character that are extraordinary,” Haney continues. “I find that inspiring.”

The documentary follows regular people who take a daily stand and protest. “That’s what made me like this community in Coal River Mountain so much. These people gathered together and were ordinary people standing up for what they believed in. There is a 91-year-old woman getting thrown out of the state building,” says Haney.

Passionate environmentalist Bobby Kennedy, Jr. also couldn’t just sit by.

“The air, the water, the wildlife, the fisheries – whether your rich or poor, young or old you have an absolute right to it, and they are being stolen by powerful political entities in order to privatize,” states Kennedy. “I have always seen pollution as an act of theft. The commons belong to the people.”

Recalling a memory from the film, Kennedy shares, “There is a scene in the movie where local activists try to have an demonstration in front of the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection), and they are surrounded by barriers preventing them from getting anywhere near the building. The coalition between government and corporate power was blatantly obvious there.”

Pressing that point further, Haney adds, “In West Virginia, two-thirds of the people are against mountaintop mining, yet how come the politicians are in support of it? Bobby began to ask these questions which awakened me.”

With conviction, Kennedy urges, “They are tearing down an entire mountain range, and so much of American culture is rooted in West Virginia. The richest eco system north of the equator is being destroyed.”

“I’ve always been into the environment, my mom said since I was very little. I started really fighting for it when I was 6 years old. I wrote my Uncle, who was then President at the time, a letter about pollution and asked if I could meet with him about it,” Kennedy recalls. “Bobby wrote a book called Crimes Against Nature that really called to me,” states Haney. “I absolutely wanted him to be a part of this project.”

Haney also wanted to find a way to humanize the story but to be impartial at the same time.

“I am not a fan of films that don’t propose a solution. You need to do both sides. They had to know what they were against, and what they were for. To take action as a waitress or an ex coal miner in West Virginia takes a lot of courage. These folks were giving something up, everyday,” Haney emphasizes.

“Finding a balance between being deeply moved enough to be committed to something and being respectful enough of the audience and trying to share the information,” implores Haney. “I wanted to let the audience take the journey with me and let them decide.”

Haney concludes, “For me to be working on a project for three years, I have to feel like it means something to me, inspiration and justice matter to me.”

The Last Mountain releases in New York June 3!

And in Los Angeles & Irvine June 15!