4100 Redwood Rd #406
Oakland, CA 94619

Coal Rush

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Economy: Corporations
Environment: Environmental Activism, Pollution
Health: Disease/treatment
Human Development: Poverty, Social Exclusion, Water/Sanitation
Human Rights: Social Exclusion
Information & Media: Media
Politics: Activism, Civil Society

Project Geography

US: Kentucky, West Virginia

Identity Niches



Raised to date: $20,000.00
Estimate to complete: $530,000.00
Total Estimated Budget: $550,000.00
The budget numbers above are accurate as of 12/02/2009



Media Type


Project End Use


Key Personnel

Lorena Luciano
co-Director, co-Producer, Editor
Lorena Luciano, born and raised in Italy, studied Law at the University of Milan before deciding to become a filmmaker. She moved to New York in 1996 where she made her first short film A Strange Marriage and started an ongoing collaboration with her husband-to-be Filippo Piscopo. A Strange Marriage was selected in competition for the Bellaria Film Festival and distributed throughout Europe.
In 1998 her documentary Dario Fo and Franca Rame: A Nobel for Two entered the Venice Film Festival and gained international distribution. The film is a touching and colorful portrait of the life and genius of Dario Fo, one of the most complex personalities of international theater and literature, and actress Franca Rame, his wife and longtime collaborator. It has been licensed to broadcasters throughout the world on five continents, from North America through Asia. The film also won the Finalist Award at WorldFest – Houston International Film Festival.
Since 1998 Lorena has been collaborating with RAI Italian Public Television and since 2004 she has been employed by RAI Corporation in NYC in the role of TV producer and editor for numerous TV features ranging from Culture, News, and Social issues.

In 2000 she started production of her feature documentary Urbanscapes, a unique work of cinematic archeology that chronicles the dramatically changing topography of urban America. The film was completed and theatrically released in July of 2006. Urbanscapes has received wide recognition and rave reviews by movie critics on a number of major U.S. and European national newspapers, magazines (including Variety, the New York Times, Time Out magazine, The Village Voice and Corriere della Sera), and radios (Repubblica Radio).
In 2006 Lorena started working on her new cinema-verite’ documentary Coal Rush, on the environmental and social empowerment battle waged for the past decade by a West Virginia mining community whose water was polluted by a coal company that for thirty years illegally injected toxic sludge underground.
As a film editor, Lorena worked on independent films screened in major film festivals such as the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival at Lincoln Center in New York.

Filippo Piscopo
co-director, co-producer, director of photography
Filippo Piscopo is a New York-based award-winning filmmaker, born and raised in Italy. In 1990, while studying Law at the University of Milan, he started his film education at the Milan Cinema School. In 1993 he spent one year in Canada working for an international film distribution company based in Montreal. After graduating in Law in 1995, he moved to New York to pursue a career in film and started an ongoing collaboration with his wife-to-be Lorena Luciano.
Filippo is presently co-directing Coal Rush, a cinema-verite’ documentary focusing on a slice of American life in a remote West Virginia county where residents are fighting against a powerful coal company accused of illegally injecting coal slurry underground, which has led to the deadly contamination of their drinking water.
Filippo Piscopo has gained national and international acclaim for his 2006 feature documentary Urbanscapes, co-directed with his wife Lorena Luciano. The film is a portrait of evolution, change, and chaos in four different US metropolises – Chicago, Detroit, New York and Newark – as seen through eyes of residents and artists who have witnessed the dramatic transformation of their neighborhoods.
Urbanscapes was theatrically released in New York City in July 2006, held over for three additional weeks by popular demand and drew rave reviews from several national and New York newspapers and magazines (Variety, the New York Times, Time Out magazine, and The Village Voice) as well as from the European mainstream media (Corriere della Sera, RAI Italian Public TV).
Filippo’s award winning work includes Dario Fo and Franca Rame, A Nobel for Two, a documentary on the Italian playwright and Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo, selected for the 1998 Venice Film Festival and winner of the Houston International Film Festival’s Finalist Award. The film is a touching and colorful portrait of the life and genius of Dario Fo, one of the most complex personalities of international theater and literature, and actress Franca Rame, his wife and longtime collaborator. Dario Fo and Franca Rame: a Nobel for Two enjoyed distribution and broadcasting throughout the world on several continents, including North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.
Other non-fiction films previously authored by Filippo Piscopo include A Strange Marriage, selected in competition for the Bellaria Film Festival in 1996 and broadcasted throughout Europe, and Starting from Scratch, selected for the Bellaria Film Festival in 1994.
Filippo’s collaborations as free-lance TV producer-director include several programs of various lengths for RAI Italian Public TV, ranging from social, political and entertainment issues filmed on location throughout the United States. His latest TV credits feature a series of TV Specials on the 2008 US Presidential Elections that include Election Night coverage from Chicago, Illinois.

Outreach/Engagement Plan(s)

We intend our film to be a vehicle to connect every community in southern Appalachia affected by water contamination, to let them know that they are not alone in the fight over their water, their mountains, and their lives. Through the help of a group of environmental grassroots organizations we are already in touch with, we plan to reach out to these audiences by organizing screenings of our film - even at the rough-cut stage - in these very communities.

The film will be instrumental in mobilizing citizens around the increasingly difficult task of holding a major corporation accountable for industrial policies that deprive those affected access to vital natural resources such as water.

In addition to bringing a much-needed portrait of human suffering to a wider audience, Coal Rush will also be an important way to push corporations to abide by environmental standards, especially on the disposal of toxic waste.

Through following this unfolding drama, Coal Rush will contribute to the creation of a new global vision of equity and sustainability for everyone. It will help change the way in which the US energy business is conducted and thereby ultimately, we hope, help to protect the communities living around and within the areas of operation of the industries. 


New York State Council for the Arts$20,000.0001/01/2010


59 Pineapple Street apt 6C
Brooklyn, NY, 11201

Short Synopsis

Coal Rush is a documentary-film that follows two West Virginia community fighting for their right to clean and safe drinking water against a powerful coal company accused of deadly contamination of their water supply.


Coal Rush is a documentary-film that follows two West Virginia communities fighting for their right to safe, fresh, and clean drinking water.Massey Energy, the fourth largest US coal producer, is one of the corporations accused of polluting the communities’ water supply by dumping toxic coal sludge underground, and of endangering the health of entire communities.Boone county and Mingo County residents, sixty miles apart, are plagued by widespread health problems, high rates of cancers and brain damage. As the water got worse and the children grew sicker, this population being secretly, slowly poisoned, started to ask questions. The coal company greeted those questions with denial, never revealing the whole picture to anyone, even the government. The Mingo County residents affected by the contamination eventually filed a lawsuit that will go to trial in January 2010. The documentary provides insight into the nation’s third poorest state, where coal is king, provides the only good jobs around, and splits communities. Coal Rush also wants to engage communities, spark debate about the dreadful ripple effects of cheap energy production in coal-dependent societies, and help empower disenfranchised populations in their quest for social justice.

While the environmental impact of the consumption of fossil fuels has been increasingly documented in recent years, Coal Rush focuses on the human cost of our addiction to coal. The film reveals the universal and timeless life stories of a community deprived of a globally recognized human right: the one of unrestricted access to clean water.

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