King Coal, a film co-produced by Denison’s Mellon Writer-in-Residence, Molly Born, will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on January 23, 2023.

The film, directed by Academy Award-nominated, Emmy- and Peabody-winning documentary filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon, is a hybrid that includes nonfiction scenes in coal mining towns and those of an imagined world. King Coal debuts in the “Next” section at Sundance, which features projects that don’t fit neatly in a traditional category.

Sundance describes the film: “Central Appalachia is a place of mountains and myth. Director Elaine McMillion Sheldon knows this well, calling those mountains home. Coal has had a profound influence on this community’s identity, but Sheldon dares to consider what future stories might look like out of the shadow of coal, now that relationships to coal are changing. She takes us on an alluring cinematic journey through the past, present, and future of Appalachia.”

Born’s role included finding subjects and locations, helping to develop the concept of the film, organizing shoots, grant-writing, even poring over 80-year-old film reels in the basement of the West Virginia State Archives. 

“I’m so proud of this independent team. It’s been an enriching challenge — and an important one to me personally: My late grandfather was a coal miner in Farmington, West Virginia, where my mother still lives.”


January 6, 2023