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In the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, a young coal miner named Lucas Chaffin toils one mile underground. Despite the harsh working conditions, Lucas takes fierce pride in the fact that he’s carrying on a family tradition. As a fourth generation miner, working inside the earth is more than just a job to Lucas. He believes it’s his duty; a responsibility symbolized by the old coal hammer that he uses. It is the same hammer that was used for 26 years by the man he loves more than anything: his father, Luther Chaffin.

Luther—nicknamed “Bonecrusher” — was once a strong, handsome man. But now, at 61, he’s withered and sick; coal dust has ravaged his lungs.  As life slips away, his greatest concern isn't for himself; it's for Lucas's safety.

Bonecrusher is an intimate account of the love between a father and son and the powerful bond they share, a bond that is put to the test. It is also a stark journey to the coal fields of Dante, Virginia where a tight-knit community of miners face life with a toughness and camaraderie as enduring as the earth itself.


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"These are proud, likable, and candid men who don’t hide their emotions as they give viewers an unflinching look at the realities of life in and around the mines of their impoverished but close-knit rural town. Nothing is sugarcoated or romanticized in this raw and gritty film, which follows Luther’s battle with black lung disease and cancer and Lucas’s struggle to come to terms with his father’s mortality and the physical and mental hardships of his chosen profession. There are no happy endings here. This must-see film is one of the better recent documentaries on the American South; highly recommended for all audiences."

-Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia



“This intimate program examines the lives of the miners. Cameras follow the men as they travel deep underground, crawl through tunnels, and chip away at coal. It also captures their trash talk, camaraderie, and sense of community. A compelling documentary.”

-Candace Smith, Booklist



“Bonecrusher compellingly details the dangers of coal mining, the sequences in the dark underground channels where men walk hunched over while breathing coal dust are truly harrowing.”

-P. Hall, Video Librarian



“Bonecrusher shines a light on our hidden workforce. College students who study law, environment, health professions, government and policy would be well-served to gain insight into the community profiled in Bonecrusher. A terrific film. ”

-Bette Jacobs, Dean, School of Nursing & Health Studies, Georgetown University



" I loved this film. I see it enhancing several classes – from the most basic courses to specialized studies in rural sociology and community services – helping educate students who have no knowledge of this part of America’s heartland."

-Deborah Abowitz, Professor of Sociology, Bucknell University



“This remarkable film powerfully demonstrates the potential for documentary film to transcend the specifics of class and reach all audiences at the most basic human level.

-Steve Wurtzler, Associate Professor Film and Media Studies, Georgetown University



“A dust-covered love story unearthed in Appalachia…Watching father and son negotiate mortality and money, Fountain’s documentary tugs at the heart as much as the conscience: In Bonecrusher, there really is no such thing as “clean coal.”

-Hilary Crowe, Washington City Paper



“In these days of telecommuting and job uncertainty, there’s something profoundly inspiring about the Chaffins, and Fountain has perceptively captured this rural sense of family and tradition… Bonecrusher is the intimate, reverent, and absorbing story of the relationship between Lucas and his coalminer father.”

-Eddie Cockrell of Variety



”The story is compelling in its mundanity--and just as compelling are the claustrophobic scenes of Lucas and his fellow miners working in the dark, miles and miles below the earth. A must see!”

-Erin Sullivan, Baltimore City Paper



“Through wonderful cinematography…this documentary takes the viewer to places both beautiful and terrifying.”

-Skizz Cyzyk for the Maryland Film Festival



”…top notch documentary…breathtaking cinematography…Bonecrusher mixes the dark and terrifying world deep in the Appalachian mines with the beautiful landscape that covers them.”

-Jay Berg’s Cinema Diary



"Bonecrusher is the best contemporary portrait of an underground miner that I have seen ever."

-Steve Fesenmaier, The Charleston Gazette

Michael Fountain Michael Fountain is the owner of WriteBrain Films. He has been directing and producing television shows for over 17 years. He is the executive producer and director of the award-winning documentary Bonecrusher. The film won Best Documentary at the 2010 Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival and the 2010 Jack Spadaro Best Documentary Award. It was a Finalist for Best Documentary in the Appalachian Film Festival and the Asheville Film Festival. Fountain has directed several series and documentaries for Discovery Channel including, the award-winning series, The 100 Greatest Discoveries with Bill Nye, Dr. Know, Emeril Green and Man-Eating Sharks: The Truth!. He has produced for Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney’s K Street for HBO, NBC’s The West Wing and for Michael Moore’s The Awful Truth on Bravo. Other television and film credits include: Touchstone Pictures’ Armageddon , Crazy Like a Fox, CBS’s The Kennedy Center Honors and NCIS, Court TV’s Gone Bad, Discovery Channel’s Rameses: Wrath of God or Man?, When Disaster Strikes and Young Scientist Challenge, The Military Channel’s My War Diaries, Disney Channel’s The Jersey, Dutch Television’s Isaac Babel and Salvatore Guilioni, Guggenheim Productions’ D-Day Remembered, The National Gallery of Art’s Empire of the Eye, National Geographic Television’s Angkor Wat, and Phoenix Pictures’ Dick. As a director and producer, his major corporate and commercial clients include: American Express, American Red Cross, America Online, Avaya, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coca-Cola, Comcast, Ford Motor Company, Freddie Mac, Giant Food, The Hecht Company, Los Angeles Times, Marriott, Maryland Lottery, MCI, Microsoft, MSNBC, NBA, Pfizer, Raytheon, Stryker, Time Warner, United Way of America, Verizon, Virginia Lottery, Volunteers of America, Whole Foods Market and Xerox. Michael Fountain received a bachelor of arts in philosophy from Bucknell University. He splits his time between Washington, DC and Lewes, DE.

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