Synopsis: From National Geographic Documentary Films, From the Ashes captures Americans in communities across the country as they wrestle with the legacy of the coal industry and what its future should be under the Trump Administration. From Appalachia to the West’s Powder River Basin, the film goes beyond the rhetoric of the “war on coal” to present compelling and often heartbreaking stories about what’s at stake for our economy, health, and climate. The film invites audiences to learn more about an industry on the edge and what it means for their lives.
Official Website & Trailer: FromTheAshesFilm.com & YouTube/download
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From the Ashes is one of the most complex projects I’ve ever been involved in, and it was a real team effort to bring it to life. From the very beginning in the spring of 2016 when we started pre-production, we wanted to make something that put a human face on the complicated issues tied to coal production like the future of the energy sector, the risks to people’s health and livelihood and the environment. These are challenges that should not be reduced to one-note soundbites as they often are in today’s hyper political climate.
We wanted to make something that addressed the intense emotions and competing motivations on multiple sides. It was important to us that our film could inform people about the real issues and spark a fact-based dialogue about an industry at a major crossroads. Essentially the question now is do we continue to invest in a 19th century form of energy production that has clear and present risks – or do we move forward and, if so, what are the options in our energy future?
The 2016 election served as a backdrop to our production, and during that time coal country was brought to the forefront of the national discourse again and again. Many promises and accusations were made in the hope of winning votes from people on the front lines of the so-called “War on Coal.” Coal powers so much of the national discourse, from jobs to public health, and it deserves a close examination from multiple perspectives.
On a personal level, as we worked on the film I continually thought about my father, someone I love but with whom I share essentially zero political beliefs. And coal, for better or worse, is and always has been highly politicized. I wanted this film to speak to people on all sides of the political spectrum.
We’re living in a truly contentious time right now, but I do believe we have the capacity to find common ground if we have the right information. After making this film, I’ve concluded that the idea that we must poison our air and water and render our planet uninhabitable to have jobs in this country is a falsehood. Hopefully this film will be part of a sane and rational dialogue about how to move forward as a nation in the 21st century.
Michael Bonfiglio is an Emmy-nominated director, producer, writer, and camera operator, whose working relationship with RadicalMedia spans over 15 years. He has shot courtrooms, prisons, deserts, jungles, concerts, off-road races, mental hospitals, sports fields, fashion shows, refugee camps, Mount Kilimanjaro and Death Row, working in over a dozen different countries with people ranging from A-list celebrities to rarely-photographed indigenous tribes.
Bonfiglio’s film You Don’t Know Bo: The Legend Of Bo Jackson, created for ESPN’s Peabody-winning series 30 For 30, is the highest-rated documentary in ESPN history. His second 30 For 30 film—2016’s critically-acclaimed Doc & Darryl, about the tumultuous lives of baseball players Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden—was co-directed with Judd Apatow. Bonfiglio and Apatow’s latest collaboration is May It Last: A Portrait Of The Avett Brothers. Over three years in the making, May It Last was acquired by HBO before its world premiere at the 2017 SXSW Film Festival where it won the 24 Beats Per Second audience award.
Bonfiglio is also the director and co-producer of the Emmy-nominated series Oprah’s Master Class, which is currently in production on its sixth season. Additional directing credits include 9 Days And Nights Of Ed Sheeran, an intimate portrait of the British singer-songwriter; the five-part series Visionaries: Inside The Creative Mind, and the Sundance Channel series Iconoclasts. Producing and other credits include the Oscar-nominated Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, Crude, Gray Matter, and the Emmy-winning 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America.
Bonfiglio has directed commercials, branded entertainment and PSA’s for clients including Vogue, Nike, American Express, Ford, Hallmark, and Esquire magazine. He has also worked with a long list of bold-faced names, including Jon Stewart, Ellen Degeneres, Robert Duvall, Morgan Freeman, Lena Dunham, Tom Ford, Jeff Bridges, Taylor Swift, Rick Rubin, James Cameron, and Oprah Winfrey. His photographs have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly, and Rolling Stone, among others.