Appalachian Film Series


2024 Appalachian Film Series Feedback Survey

We invite your feedback! Help the University prepare for next year’s Film Series – share your reflections on a brief survey at

Future Generations University has an indelible connection to West Virginia and broader Appalachia. The institution was founded and is headquartered in Franklin, West Virginia. The University’s research and outreach division, called Community Engagement, has a strong focus in Appalachia with research practices in syrup production, agroforestry, community economic development, and education across the region. The University’s student body is international, the research impact is global, but our home is the mountaintops of the Monongahela National Forest. The Appalachian Film Series aligns with the University’s commitment to our region and our values. The Series showcases complex aspects of Appalachian culture – inspiration and exploitation of the landscape’s natural beauty; the impact of isolation or poverty; rich craft traditions; the intrepid character embedded across Appalachian communities. Through the lens of film and television, this series creates space to reflect on Appalachia’s history, legacy, and emergence of new paths.

Appalachian Film Series 2024 Schedule

Click on any film title below to jump to that section.

January 29, 2024 – Series Announcement

Discover the newest community program presented by Future Generations University: a film series focusing on stories of Appalachia. Learn about the programs and see trailers for the films. The Announcement, and Series, is free and open to the public. We hope you’ll take part in this series with your family and friends this winter.

Appalachian Film Series Announcement

February 12, 2024 – Wild River (1960)

A young bureaucrat for the Tennessee Valley Authority goes to rural Tennessee to oversee the building of a dam. He encounters opposition from the local people, in particular a farmer who objects to his employment (with pay) of local black laborers. Much of the plot revolves around the eviction of a stubborn octogenarian from her home on an island in the river, and the young man’s love affair with that woman’s widowed granddaughter.

Wild River (1960) Film Trailer

Wild River Panel Discussion

Reverend Bradley G. Davis, United Methodist Pastor, McDowell County, WV

Rev. Brad Davis is a United Methodist clergyperson currently serving as pastor of six churches in McDowell County, WV.  Rev. Davis also chairs the West Virginia Council of Churches Government Concerns/Peace with Justice Unit and is co-chair of the West Virginia Faith Collective.

A native of Mingo County, WV, Rev. Davis is extremely passionate about the southern coalfields and its people. His ministry emphasizes the church’s mission to pursue justice for and show mercy to all people.

Rev. Davis received a Master of Divinity from Methodist Theological School in Ohio, and is alumni of West Virginia State University where he graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in history.

Francis L. Day, President & CEO, Future Generations University

Francis L. Day has over four decades of experience as a nonprofit manager at the senior leadership level, primarily in higher education and fundraising. Early career positions include CEO of the Haskell Foundation at Haskell Indian Nations University, Dean of Development at College of the Atlantic, and Vice President at Unity College. She earned a Masters in Management Engineering and Anthropology at UCLA and University of Tennessee.

She is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Daughters of the American Revolution and is an avid gardener, writer and reader.

Candace and Lucas Wiggin, Maple Grove Farm, Afton, Tennessee

Candace and Lucas Wiggin are part of a three-generation family farm in Afton, Tennessee that produces 100% pure maple syrup and maple products. The Wiggin family settled in East Tennessee in the early 1980’s after decades of making maple syrup in Vermont. Their farm has grown to cover 100 acres, with daily sap collected from over 500 trees. Maple Grove Farm diversifies their maple syrup products by offering apple cider infused syrup, bourbon barrel aged syrup, and most recently, a chili infused syrup.

February 26, 6:00 pm EST – Living in the Future’s Past (2018)

What kind of future do we want to live in? Jeff Bridges presents this beautifully photographed 4K tour de force of original thinking on who we are and the life challenges we face. This film upends our way of thinking and provides original insights into our subconscious motivations, the unintended consequences, and how our fundamental nature influences our future as mankind.

Living in the Future's Past (2018) Film Trailer

Living in the Future's Past Panel Discussion

Jenny Dissen, Corporate Relations and Partnership Lead, North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies

Jenny Dissen is corporate relations and partnerships lead at NCICS, where she facilitates collaborations and partnerships across academia, government, public, private, and other sectors to inspire innovative use and application of environmental data. She serves as the NCICS engagement lead for the NOAA Big Data Program and as program manager for the U.S. Department of State and NOAA U.S.-India Partnership for Climate Resilience on high resolution climate models and projections, and is part of collaborative research project on climate information for the real-estate sector. Most recently, she contributed to the State of North Carolina’s climate science report and resiliency plan.

Currently, she serves on the Electric Power Research Institute Advisory Council, is the co-chair of the American Meteorological Society Committee on Partnerships, and regionally supports the NC School of Science and Mathematics, the Asheville Museum of Science and, the Collider, a climate innovation center.

Ms. Dissen has a Master’s degree in civil engineering – environmental systems analysis, and a Bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering, both from NC State University. Recent certificates are in Climate Change and Society from the UNC Asheville Masters in Liberal Arts Program and Harvard Business School Executive Education Program on Global Energy Seminars.

Mike Rechlin, Research Professor – Appalachian Program, Future Generations University

Mike Rechlin has practiced sustainable forestry and protected areas management in the United States, Nepal, India, and Tibet for thirty years. He has extensive teaching experience and designed educational programs for international groups visiting the Adirondack Park of New York State.

Dr. Rechlin held academic appointments at Principia College, Paul Smith’s College, and Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He served as dean of Future Generations Graduate School (2010 to 2013). He presently resides, and makes maple syrup, in Franklin, WV.

Daniel Taylor, Professor of Equity and Empowerment (Social Change), Future Generations University

Daniel Taylor has been engaged in social change and conservation for four decades with a focus on building international cooperation to achieve ambitious projects. He founded nine Future Generations organizations worldwide (including the accredited Future Generations University). He also founded and led The Mountain Institute. In 1985, after providing the scientific explanation for the yeti, he led the creation of Nepal’s Makalu-Barun National Park, then, in close partnership with the Tibet Autonomous Region, Chinas Qomolangma (Everest) National Nature Preserve and Four Great Rivers Nature Preserve – protecting one-seventh of Chinas forest reserves.

He is one of the synthesizers of the SEED-SCALE method, an understanding of social change initiated by a UNICEF task force he co-chaired (1992-1995). Since 1995 he continued to lead global field trials of SEED-SCALE and is senior author of Just and Lasting Change: How Communities Can Own Their Futures and Empowerment: From Seeds of Human Energy to a Scale of Global Change. Among his honors, Taylor was knighted by the King of Nepal Gorkha Dakshin Bau III; was made the first honorary professor of quantitative ecology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences; and was decorated with the Order of the Golden Ark by HRH Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands.

Daniel R. Wildcat, Professor and Director of Haskell Environmental Research Studies Center, Haskell Indian Nations University

Daniel R. Wildcat is a Yuchi member of the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma. He is director of the Haskell Environmental Research Studies (HERS) Center and member of the Indigenous & American Indian Studies Program at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. In 2013 he was the Gordon Russell visiting professor of Native American Studies at Dartmouth College. Dr. Wildcat received B.A. and M.A. degrees in sociology from the University of Kansas and an interdisciplinary Ph.D. from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. He has taught at Haskell for over three decades.

Dr. Wildcat’s recent activities have revolved around forming the American Indian and Alaska Native Climate Change Working Group: a tribal college-centered network of individuals and organizations working on climate change issues.

He is the author and editor of several books: Power and Place: Indian Education In America, with Vine Deloria, Jr.; Destroying Dogma: Vine Deloria’s Legacy on Intellectual America, with Steve Pavlik. His most recent book, Red Alert: Saving the Planet with Indigenous Knowledge, suggests current global climate change issues will require the exercise of indigenous ingenuity – indigenuity – and wisdom if humankind is reduce the ecological damage well underway.


March 11 – O Pioneer (2023)

O Pioneer reckons with and redefines the American pioneer. By definition, a pioneer is a leader, a trailblazer, a pathfinder; all of which can sound lofty and unreachable… Too often we leave the solving to others when in reality our own hands can positively impact life’s journey. O Pioneer follows three West Virginians-a blacksmith, a seamstress, and a hospital chaplain-as they creatively navigate hardship. Weaving narration with archival pioneer footage, candid moments from each subject, poetic vignettes, and dream-like animation, O Pioneer asks viewers to courageously champion the pioneer within.

O Pioneer (2023) Film Trailer

O Pioneer Panel Discussion

Dr. Mary Hufford, Appalachian Folklorist, associate director for the Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network (LiKEN)

As associate director for the Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network (LiKEN), folklorist Mary Hufford has worked with colleagues across disciplines and sectors to develop collaboratories for place-based approaches to the study of forest and water issues in Central Appalachian communities. She is especially interested in how conversational genres sustain local imaginaries anchored in commons of forests, soils, and water — in how stories assemble multi-species communities within narrative ecologies, in how places come to form narrative climax systems. Over the past three decades, she worked for the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, and the Graduate Group in Folklore and Folklifeat the University of Pennsylvania.

Jonathan Lacocque, director, “O Pioneer”

Jonathan Lacocque co-founded the creative studio, Coat of Arms in 2010 and serves as its creative director, producer, and editor. Coat of Arms works with Fortune 100 and 500 brands and is a Webby, Emmy, Cannes Lion-awarded studio. He produced, filmed and edited the award-winning film, A Perfect Soldier, directed his first feature-length documentary, Born in a Ballroom in 2019, and recently completed his second feature documentary, O Pioneer in 2023. His work has played at over 50 film festivals world-wide, including Cannes, Doc Edge, DOC NYC, SXSW, and Tribeca. Jonathan is first-generation American (Cuban/Belgian) and was born and raised in Chicago. He currently lives in Helvetia, WV and balances filmmaking with community development and service work.

Clara Lehmann, director, “O Pioneer”

Clara Lehmann co-founded the creative studio, Coat of Arms in 2010 and serves as its director, producer, and writer. Coat of Arms works with Fortune 100 and 500 brands and is a Webby, Emmy, Cannes Lion-awarded studio. She wrote, directed, and produced her first documentary, Born in a Ballroom, in 2019. Her second feature documentary, O Pioneer, received a Cinequest Film Festival Audience Award and is currently in the festival circuit. She wrote and directed the multi-award-winning animated series entitled Lullaby Theories. Her work has played at over 50 film festivals world-wide, including Cannes, Doc Edge, DOC NYC, SXSW, and Tribeca. Clara received the West Virginia Beacon Award in 2020 for her community and filmmaking work. She serves as the chair of the WV Community Development Hub and the president of the Helvetia Restoration and Development Organization.

Jenny Totten, Future Generations University Appalachian Program Strategy and Impact Manager, Assistant Professor

Jenny Totten grew up in West Virginia. Professionally trained as an aerospace and robotics engineer, she discovered after a series of beautiful adventures she discovered she prefers working with communities to engineer their own futures instead. Jenny has worked with both community development and local food systems in the region for over a decade, particularly supporting local level efforts and systems approaches to community change.

Her professional interests gravitate towards building rural economic models, supporting youth-based programs, entrepreneurship, applications of technology to rural development, and agroforestry pursuits. Jenny received both an MS in unmanned systems and BS in aerospace engineering from Virginia Tech and is a member of the inaugural class of Appalachian Leadership Institute fellows, sponsored by the Appalachian Regional Commission. She is a past winner of the West Virginia Beacon Award, given to young people working to build leadership in their local communities.

March 25 – Foodways of Appalachia

Foodways are folkways. In this program, two chef-led television episodes shot on location are devoted to Appalachian food and culture traditions: Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, and Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.

The panel discussion is moderated by Dr. Joey Aloi, assistant professor, program director for Future Generations University Community Engagement: Appalachian Program.

Click here to read more about Joey and his work in environmental philosophy and food education.

 Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown: West Virginia (2018)

Bourdain digs deep into the proud, often misunderstood culture of West Virginia, as he traverses a 5,000 foot mine, observes the demolition derby-like sport of rock-bouncing and dines on signature Appalachian dishes.

Foodways of Appalachia Panel Discussion

Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown: West Virginia (2018) Episode Trailer

Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern: West Virginia (2012)

Andrew dons his hunting clothes and loads up his shotgun to get a taste of how people live in the beautiful West Virginia! Andrew finds out that the Mountain State is home to some of the best food nature has to offer, including deer and groundhog.

Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern: West Virginia (2012) Episode Highlights

Dr. Eric Burkhart, ethnobotanist, program director, Appalachian Botany and Ethnobotany, Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center

Dr. Eric Burkhart is a botanist who specializes in ethnobotany, non-timber forest products and plant conservation in his teaching, research and educational outreach endeavors. He holds degrees in economic botany (B.A, Idaho State University), horticulture (M.S., Penn State University), and forest resources (Ph.D., Penn State University) and is currently plant science program director for Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center and faculty instructor for the Penn State Ecosystem Science and Management Department. His research program in Pennsylvania is focused on developing sustainable wild crop management and production systems for American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), ramps (Allium tricoccum) and other native forest plants using agroforestry cultivation.

Mike Costello, chef, farmer, storyteller, Lost Creek Farm

Mike Costello is a chef, farmer, and storyteller at Lost Creek Farm in north-central West Virginia. Mike grew up on a small farm in Kanawha County, West Virginia, where he developed an appreciation for the land at an early age. After working in the culinary industry throughout high school, Mike attended journalism school at West Virginia University, where his storytelling work centered food as an important mark of Appalachia’s rich and diverse cultural heritage. Lost Creek Farm––operated by Mike and his partner, Amy Dawson––has been widely recognized for its story-rich mountain cuisine. In 2022, Mike and Amy were semifinalists for a James Beard Award in the category of Best Chef, Southeast. Their work has been featured by Anthony Bourdain on CNN‘s “Parts Unknown”, The New York TimesBon Appetit, Vice News, and many other regional, national, and international publications. While mostly known for his culinary endeavors at Lost Creek Farm, he continues his journalistic work as a freelance writer, producer of The Pickle Shelf Radio Hour, and a filmmaker behind Lost Creek Farm’s award-winning “Homegrown Foodways in West Virginia” documentary series produced for the Library of Congress.

Dr. Lucy M. Long, founder and director, Center for Food and Culture

Lucy M. Long, Ph.D. believes dialogues among scholars, chefs, nutritionists, farmers, green market advocates, and others concerned with food and foodways are necessary to create positive and sustainable change. She established the Center for Food and Culture in 2007 to bring together resources, organizations, and individuals involved in food research, study, appreciation, activism, production, and consumption in recognition that food connects us all.

Dr. Long, a folklorist, musician, mother, cook, and consumer of most things edible. She began studying food in 1980 in relation to work on Asian immigrant communities in the US and has continued looking at food from many perspectives. When she began teaching in the mid 1980s the field of foodways was not recognized as a serious academic subject, so she explored and taught about food in the context of other disciplines– folklore, anthropology, popular culture, American culture studies, international studies, ethnic studies, tourism, and even ethnomusicology.

Dr. Long also worked in museums and libraries doing exhibit research and design, educational programming, archiving, and interpretative presenting. Food was a common theme throughout much of this work. Long’s multidisciplinary scholarly background (PhD in Folklore and Folklife, University of Pennsylvania; MA in Ethnomusicology, University of Maryland; BA in Liberal Arts with a major in Music, Davidson College, NC; Certificates in Interpretation; National Association for Interpretation) and her involvement in both academia and public sector work made her familiar with a wide range of approaches to understanding food.

Kimberly Pettigrew, director, Food Systems at the United Way of Greater Knoxville

Kimberly Pettigrew serves as director of Food Systems at the United Way of Greater Knoxville. She has nearly two decades of food system experience including a background in nutrition, journalism, and even artisan cheese making, and more recently serving as Local Food Initiative coordinator at Nourish Knoxville, Knoxville-Knox County Food Policy chair, and chair of the KEMA Food Access Committee during the COVID-19 Pandemic. In her current role, Kimberly uses applied community development to work with the broad community, individuals experiencing food insecurity, marginalized populations, nonprofits, businesses, and government leadership to create a more just, equitable food system rooted in community.

April 8 – The Dollmaker (1984)

During World War II, hard-luck farmer Clovis Nevels leaves his rural Kentucky home to take a factory job in bustling Detroit. Reluctantly accompanying Clovis is his long-suffering wife, Gertie, a talented woodcarver set in her traditional ways. When the perils of city life and Clovis’s reckless squandering of money send the Nevels into precarious financial straits, Gertie starts a business making hand-carved dolls in order to provide for her family.

The Dollmaker (1984) Film Trailer

The Dollmaker (1984) Panel Discussion

Francis L. Day, President & CEO, Future Generations University

Francis L. Day has over four decades of experience as a nonprofit manager at the senior leadership level, primarily in higher education and fundraising. Early career positions include CEO of the Haskell Foundation at Haskell Indian Nations University, Dean of Development at College of the Atlantic, and Vice President at Unity College. She earned a Masters in Management Engineering and Anthropology at UCLA and University of Tennessee.

She is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Daughters of the American Revolution and is an avid gardener, writer and reader.

John Polly, Arrowmont Appalachian Craft & Culture Fellow, Woodworker

John Polly was taught basic woodworking skills by his dad at as a young child. He learned a true appreciation of how to work wood with limited tools. From a very early age, Polly learned to utilize available resources, reuse and upcycle with minimal tools to create useful items from wood. Nearly everything he has made was sourced from sawmill lumber or processed from discarded trees. Several furniture pieces in his home as well as custom-built items have been constructed utilizing this process. Polly is also an avid bowl turner made from stock not suitable for lumber.

After retiring from a career working for the FMC Federal prison in Lexington, KY, Polly now pursues his passions for woodworking and community engagement. Recent projects include constructing bunk beds for kids who otherwise sleep on a floor or couch through the First Baptist Church of Jacksboro’s volunteer program, Sleep in Heavenly Peace. Polly also worked closely with the Campbell County Culture Coalition on several projects including a mural in Campbell County Courthouse and outdoor book boxes located throughout the county.

Polly enjoys teaching woodworking basics to adults and kids. He was the Spring 2020 Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts Appalachian Craft & Culture Fellow. Polly participated as instructor for Arrowmont’s ArtReach on the Road and National Workshops.

Dr. Joshua Wilkey, associate vice president of Academic Affairs, assistant professor of business & organizational leadership, Brevard College

A lifelong resident of Appalachia, Joshua Wilkey lives in rural western North Carolina. An historian, educator, and part-time poultry farmer, he and his wife Betsy live on a little homestead where they raise organic vegetables and herd an array of chickens, guinea fowl, ducks, and turkeys. Dr. Joshua Wilkey is associate dean of Academic Affairs for Student Success at Brevard College. From Dillsboro, North Carolina, he joined the Brevard College community in 2016.

Dr. Wilkey’s experiences with access to education influenced his professional and academic paths. After completing high school, he couldn’t afford to go to college. He spent a decade as a small business owner before he had the chance to begin college, with the intention to attend seminary. “I took a circuitous path to higher education. I was 31 the first time I stepped into a college classroom, and I pretty quickly decided that I probably never wanted to leave. I fell in love with teaching and with serving students and realized that my calling was in higher education.” At Brevard College, Dr. Wilkey’s vision for the future includes offering students additional opportunities through new majors rooted in experiential learning and liberal arts.

Future Generations University Appalachian Film Series brings together experts on the research faculty and staff, professionals in cinema and storytelling, and Appalachian leaders in the community for moderated panel discussions following each screening. Audience questions and participation is encouraged. Through examining the qualities of Appalachian communities through the lens of film and television, we hope to find experiences that bring community members closer together; highlight University programs and initiatives empowering Appalachian communities; think critically about the region’s role and leadership as an ecological and cultural force in our nation and across the globe.