Reviews & Accolades PDF Print E-mail
Jen Gilomen / Sunday, 14 February 2010 17:58


Accolades & Awards

  • Award of Merit, first place feature documentary, University Film & Video Association (UFVA), 2012
  • Independent Lens (national PBS broadcast), 2010
  • Emmy nomination, New Approaches to News & Documentary Category, 2011
  • U.S. State Department's American Documentary Showcase, 2011
  • Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, 2010
  • ITVS Community Cinema, 2010
  • Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival, 2010
  • Banff Mountain Culture Award


"Deep Down is a revelatory film, breathtakingly poignant and poetic, and goes beyond the politics of protest to look at the inexorably connected lives of Appalachian residents... Incredibly resilient and prepared, Beverly May, who works as a nurse at a clinic for those without insurance, might be one of the most endearing and powerful anti-mountaintop removal spokeswomen in the nation.”
-Jeff Biggers, The Huffington Post
"Deep Down is a revelatory film, breathtakingly poignant and poetic, and goes beyond the politics of protest to look at the inexorably connected lives of Appalachian residents... Incredibly resilient and prepared, Beverly May, who works as a nurse at a clinic for those without insurance, might be one of the most endearing and powerful anti-mountaintop removal spokeswomen in the nation.”
--Jeff Biggers, The Huffington Post


"It's a great source of pride to me to see average folks stand up and make extremely articulate arguments for their views -- on both sides. On film, Terry Ratliff courageously goes through the same mental debate that we all go through when we're facing an ethical decision. The beauty of this film is that it brings out the best, most thoughtful aspects of human nature as we confront the challenges of modern society."
--Dodd Galbreath, Executive Director of the Institute for Sustainable Practice at Lipscomb University

"The number one thing we need to think about as a nation, as a region, as a school, is that the cheapest, cleanest and fastest source of energy we have available to us is energy efficiency. Eliminating the need is the first order of business."
--Sarah Lynn Cunningham, Engineer, Author and Educator

"Deep Down is a beautiful work -- as much a moving portrait of Appalachia as a powerful document on mountaintop removal."
--Ted Parks, Associate Professor of Spanish, Lipscomb University & Co-curator, HumanDocs Film Series

"The movie is powerful, and it led to a wonderful discussion of the power of community empowerment, grassroots organizing, and political engagement. Allow people to find their voice and great things can be done."
-- Michael Aldridge, Directory Kentucky ACLU, Louisville, KY 

"Beautiful shots of the Kentucky countryside play off against Ratliff pointing out land effectively restored by a mining company. 'Deep Down' may allude to the coal beneath Maytown. But it also alludes to the common values that its residents share."
-- BeyondChron, November 5, 2010 

"Deep Down is a great story out of the heart of Coal Country, and a different kind of documentary. ... Viewers get an inside look at what goes on in a movement orchestrated by ordinary citizens."
-- The Daily Yonder, August 5, 2010

"Deep Down is a good example of its genre, telling a story rather than explaining an issue. Compelling narrative dominates the documentary, complemented by sufficient scientific facts to drive home the prevailing message: Coal is dirty. This heartbreaking but ultimately heartwarming account of a small mining community weaves in humor, color, and suspense, making it well worth a look."
--Sarah A. Henderson, The Green Life blog

"In “Deep Down” we see ordinary citizens successfully fight mountain top removal to keep their cultural landscape in tact.  Though set in coal country, this film is about more than taking on king coal.  It elegantly demonstrates the power of citizens’ action anywhere to curb big industry exploitation and greed.  Local residents of this eastern Kentucky community liken the painstaking process of learning about their own legal rights and coal industry regulations to peeling back the tight layers of an onion.  At the center is a sweet morsel of victory nestled next to terrible knowledge of how much has been lost and may yet be lost.  The makers of “Deep Down” have captured a poignant moment in the natural and social history of central Appalachia.  And they have given all of us the call to action within our own communities, wherever they may be."
-- Dr. Katherine Roberts, UNC  

"Rubin and Gilomen succeeded in portraying the Appalachian people not as victims of a greater economical machine, but as smart, considerate citizens eager to do what s best for their community."
-- the Sentinel, 04.15.2010

"Filmmakers Sally Rubin and Jen Gilomen combine sweeping shots of the Appalachian Mountains with relatable characters to tell this moving story of how one community deals with two opposing ways of achieving the same goal preserving their way of life."
-- the Flemingsburg Gazette, 04.14.10

"Deep Down is--without a doubt--the most moving and insightful film yet on the issue of mountaintop removal and it reveals the complexities of a rogue industry that is threatening much more than trees and mountains, but an entire way of life and the soul of a proud people.  This movie provides heroes that can stand as examples in any fight for social justice.  DEEP DOWN is hugely intelligent, haunting, and moving.  I wish everybody in America could see this film."  
--Silas House, author of Clay's Quilt, Eli the Good, and Something's Rising

"I just watched the DVD and Wow. I have seen a lot of videos about mountaintop removal, and this one is just wonderful, easily the best of them. Every single character in it felt real. I love the focus on Terry Ratliff's decision, and his friendship with Bev May, alongside the larger policy issue. It gives *everyone* a level where they can do something. Terry's decision is particularly relevant to the Marcellus Shale landowners too.  I grew up in Kentucky, and each year we went to the Black Gold Festival in Hazard while visiting family there. When I was a child in the 1970's, my parents talked about strip mining as a great evil, and I can't believe that instead of getting better since then, what we have now is strip mining on steroids. Your movie manages to make Appalachian people on both sides seem like thoughtful, decent humans, and I particularly appreciate how it shows what 'outsiders' don't necessarily know: not everyone in Kentucky supports the excesses of the coal industry, and that none of us is truly an outsider when the issues are clean water, human and mountain health, and coal-fired power plants."  
-- Nancy Gift, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Acting Director of the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University. She is also the author of two books, A Weed by Any Other Name (Beacon Press, 2009) and the upcoming Good Weed, Bad Weed (St. Lynn's Press, 2011), Pittsburgh, PA

"Appalachian people have always been portrayed as victims on film. Deep Down offers something completely new."
-- Burt Lauderdale, London, KY

"There have been a lot of films made on this issue, This is the first time I've `gotten it.'"
-- Christy Brown, Louisville, KY 

From Students

Terry_lookingDistance"Deep Down is a heartfelt documentary and it is inspiring to see a small town community banding together to resist large corporations and winning."
-- Low Youjin, age 23, Singapore

"An interesting insight into the struggles of a small American town."
-- Indramawan Kusumo, age 26, Singapore

"Deep Down shows that it takes a community to make a difference. Communities need to come together to fight for the greater good for generations to come. I learned that money can be yours and mine, but the future of our generation should not be undermined. To create change in what we believe in, we must all believe that we can make the change."
-- Reza Omar, age 22, Singapore

"Haunting and emotionally moving." -- JD Chua, age 25, Singapore
"Deep Down gave insight to problems not everyone is aware of." - MJ Lat, Mission Viejo, CA, age 20
"Never again will you think you're too small to make a difference. Watch Deep Down." -- Joy Yi, age 19, Cerritos, CA
"Deep Down opened my eyes to the intricacies of mountaintop removal. It dug into the heart of a mountain community whose legacy was at stake for the profit of a coal mining company." -- Nicole Zwiren, age 25, LA CA

"I’m from a small town in Maine and the people in Deep Down were exactly like people I know. I knew how hard they worked or what they have. Big companies are scary and people are scared to stand up to them." 
-- Maggie Standish, age 19

 "Beverly feels like my neighbor. She’s so human." -- University student


Deep Down: A Story From the Heart of Coal Country

When a proposed strip mining operation threatens to permanently alter the landscape around Maytown, Ky., the citizens of this small town in the heart of coal country are forced to reassess their values and take an unprecedented stand against the coal company. Deep Down follows Beverly May—a health care professional and descendent of local settlers—as she leads the effort to keep the coal company out of her "holler" by petition. Meanwhile, May's longtime friend and neighbor Terry Ratliff is tempted to lease his land to the mining operation.

Sweeping aerial views of the Appalachian landscape reveal a rare and lovely forested place, steeply rolling and thick with deciduous trees for miles where it remains untouched, and a wounded, artificial wasteland where coal mining has introduced the new process of "mountaintop removal." Skillful pacing and well-chosen characters drive directors Jen Gilomen and Sally Rubin's story briskly through interviews, strategy sessions, committee meetings and town halls to a satisfying, though open-ended, conclusion. (AG)

Rethinking Schools, Spring 2011 

Deep Down offers an intimate look at what happens as neighbors are pitted against each other when a coal company proposes to strip-mine in the hills above Maytown, Ky. The film is built around Beverly May, who is determined to resist the coal company, and Terry Ratliff, who could sorely use the money the coal company is offering to lease some of his land for coal mining. The filmmakers present Ratliff’s indecision with sympathy, even as we cheer May’s tireless efforts to save her community. At a hearing, May addresses the miners, whose livelihoods depend on continued mining: “I would like you to know that I work in a small clinic that takes care of people who are poor and who don’t have insurance. I see every day many of your brothers. You are not my enemy. And I’m not yours. We are all victims of the same coal companies. It’s just that you’re on the top of the mountain and I’m down at the bottom. We are not enemies.” As an antidote to cynicism, I wish that every student in the country could meet the dedicated and compassionate Beverly May. Deep Down may be too slow, too “small” a story to hold some students’ attention, but this is a rare and remarkable teaching resource that shows the nitty-gritty process of organizing: the meetings, petitions, one-on-one conversations, phone calls, and demonstrations. The courage of Maytown residents is palpable. As one resident testifies late in the film: “Just imagine a society that is dependent on blowing up mountain after mountain after mountain. That there is a group of people that decided to stand up against it, that is exceptional.”


Latest News from Deep Down

Reel Power Grassroots Mini-Grant Recipients Announced

This month, the screenings of "Deep Down" and other Reel Power films begin across the nation.  Check out the "supertrailer" for this collection of powerful environmental films that together, tell a much bigger picture about energy and our relationship to it.