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Meet the Filmmaker: Bob Sharpe

Meet the Filmmaker: Bob Sharpe
“Before the Mountain was Moved”
Date: Thursday, May 12, 2011
Location: NY NATAS, 1375 Broadway (between 37th and 38th Streets), Suite 2103
Reception: 6:00-6:30 PM ~ Program: 6:30-8:00 PM
*Free to NY NATAS Members!
$15 for those without current NY NATAS membership
In 1970 the documentary Before the Mountain Was Moved by Robert Sharpe was nominated for an Academy Award as the best documentary of the year. Prior to making the film, Sharpe spent three weeks with community action leaders meeting people in the hollows of Raleigh County, West Virginia, where strip-mining was ravaging the countryside. He then returned with a small crew to interview and record a few of the more interesting characters he had met.  Outstanding among them was Elias Bailey who spoke one of the more unique aspects of this film: the local dialect.
In 1969, after serving 46 years as a coal miner,  Elias Bailey, aged sixty, stood in the state Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, to testify before a hearing on the ravages of strip-mining. Stricken by black lung disease, Bailey declared: “I’m just a broke down miner now, whose tiny cattle farm and streams had been destroyed by strippers. If the strippers tear your place up, that is an act of God…That’s not their fault, that’s God’s fault. They want the money, a pocket full, a bank full, and then say it’s  caused by God.” Elias Bailey is a “Man of the Mountains,” born and raised in West Virginiaas were his parents and their parents before. Yet the mountains he loves contain coal, and with the coming of great earth-movers he and his neighbors see the beauty of their mountains torn away. Even as they watch, their houses and farms are damaged or destroyed and their lives endangered by landslides from the strip mining operations in the mountains above.Lawyers to represent them are difficult to find—and indeed the law itself does not protect them. They feel their rights will never be protected, that the system cannot be changed, that they themselves are incapable of bringing change about.Their struggle—as much within themselves as in the forces that oppose them—is the struggle many face who despair of being heard after generations of helplessness.The documentary follows Elias from his mountain home to the town general store where he has an encounter with an obstinate coal boss, and onto the local community center for a gathering of mountain voices against mining. Then Elias and three others embark on an interesting car trip to Charleston, West Virginia, which gives us a glimpse into the joining of two races for one cause. All four end at the nation's capital worrying about testifying before the senate. Who will listen to poor folks they wonder? Their testimony is riveting and raw—the little people with the powerful voices make their stand for their mountains.
Robert Sharpe is a writer-director-film maker who worked for such television programs as OMNIBUS with Alistair Cooke, THE SEVEN LIVELY ARTS with John Houseman and Andy Rooney, the NBC Special Projects Department and THE TWENTIETH CENTURY Series with Walter Cronkite during the Golden Age of Television. He subsequently produced, wrote and directed films for Harvard University, the United States Information Agency and the Office of Economic Opportunity. Before the Mountain was Moved, a feature documentary about the devastation strip mining inflicted on people’s lives in Appalachia, was nominated for an Academy Award. He was selected for inclusion in Who’s Who in the World 2000 and Who’s Who in America 2001. Mr. Sharpe has been a photographer since he was ten. His work has been published in The Chicago Tribune Magazine, Popular Photography, Leica Magazine andThe New York Times. His work is in the permanent collection of The Brooklyn Museum of Art and has been shown at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Among the photographic series he has done are Assisi, Italy; Spanish Patterns; Venice, Sicily & Malta; Interplay (people interacting with art works in museums and sculpture gardens); The Unseen (images and voices of the homeless at The Bowery Mission); Portugal in Black & White and Color(with his wife Tina); Changes;  Silent City;  Escalator;  and currently Ireland. He is on the Board of the Photography Committee of The National Arts Club, a member of ASMP and DGA and is a President Emeritus of PAI (Photography & Imaging, Inc.), a group of largely professional photographers formed in the 1950’s.
Please RSVP via email to reserve a seat. Use film title “Before the Mountain was Moved” in subject line of email.
Produced & Moderated by Sumner Jules Glimcher


Thu, May 12, 2011
1 p.m. - 3 p.m.
(GMT-0400) US/Eastern


1375 Broadway, Suite 2103
New York, NY 10018