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Department of Arts, Culture and History to present special preview of acclaimed documentary “The Appalachians” on May 7, 2005

The West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History will present a special preview of the highly acclaimed documentary film series, The Appalachians -- A land shaped by the people, A people shaped by the land, in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater at the Cultural Center, State Capitol Complex, Charleston on Saturday, May 7, at 7 p.m. The preview is free and open to the public.

Mari-Lynn C. Evans, filmmaker and executive producer, and Phylis Geller, writer and producer, will speak about their experiences working on the film series and show a 50-minute compilation of the three-hour documentary series. The evening also will feature live music by Gandydancer, a group of West Virginia musicians who perform on the film’s soundtrack.

The Appalachians is a compelling story that explores both the history of Appalachia and its present: the folk music, people, culture and land. The series delves into religion, music, politics, poverty, coal and even whiskey. The opening segment deals primarily with the religion and music brought here by small groups of European settlers in the early 17th century, led by the Scots-Irish and Germans. The second hour covers Native Americans and the forced removal of the Cherokees, known as the Trail of Tears, the Civil War, railroads, the Hatfield and McCoy feud, the birth of the hillbilly stereotype and the coal wars. The documentary concludes with the Depression, the New Deal, migration to northern cities, strip mining and mountaintop removal and how the gospel and bluegrass music of the Appalachian region grew into becoming a huge country music industry.

Appalachian mountain people are songwriters and storytellers. To tell their history, the producers used mountain songs as an integral part of the film. In addition to Gandydancer, the film features Johnny Cash in his last film interview, Rosanne Cash, Loretta Lynn, Little Jimmy Dickens, Marty Stuart, Ricky Skaggs and more.

Immediately following the program, there will be a reception in the Great Hall with more live music. The West Virginia Book Company will have a booksigning with copies of the illustrated companion book, “The Appalachians: America’s First and Last Frontier” from Random House which was edited by Evans, Robert Santelli and Holly George-Warren, CDs of the soundtrack from Dualtone Records and DVDs from Appalachia My Home, available for purchase.

Evans is a native West Virginian who grew up in Bulltown, Braxton County, and now lives in Akron, Ohio. She is president and CEO of Evening Star Productions, a film and television production company. Evans previously owned AdultCare, which provided day care services for adults. She also has consulted with many Fortune 500 companies including Proctor and Gamble. Evans has spent the last five years working on The Appalachians. She undertook the project partially because she grew tired of the slurs and stereotypes that are so prevalent about the Appalachian region and sought to present a more accurate and positive image of the area.

Geller has been a producer and media executive for more than 30 years.She was executive producer and co-writer for Korean War Stories, a PBS special that won the national Emmy Award for Best Historical Documentary in 2002. Geller has overseen projects in several genres, including history, science, drama, performance and children’s programs. She has served as senior vice president of production at three PBS stations including KCET/Hollywood, Maryland Public Television and WETA/Washington. Currently she is president of Norman Star Media in Washington, D.C.

Gandydancer has been performing since 1996 and includes musicians Mark Payne, Charleston; Ron Mullennex, Bluefield, Va.; Dave Bing, Harmony; Jim Martin, St. Albans; and Gerry Milnes, Elkins. Milnes also served as a music consultant for the film series. The group has released two CD recordings on the JMP label and has performed in England, California, across West Virginia and throughout the Appalachian region.

The Appalachians is an Evening Star Production presented by Nashville Public Television and distributed to public television stations nationally by American Public Television. The three-part series will start on West Virginia Public Broadcasting System (WVPBS) on Sunday, May 8, at 7 p.m., and continue for the next two Sundays. All three parts will be shown on WVPBS on Wednesday, May 18, from 8 - 11 p.m.

For more information about the preview for The Appalachians film series, contact (304) 558-0162.

The West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. The Cultural Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. Visit the Division’s website at for more information about programs of the Division. The Department of Arts, Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.