Appalachian Film Festival


Join us March 11, 2024, 6:00 pm EST for 'O Pioneer'

You are invited to the Appalachian Film Series: ‘O Pioneer,’ award-winning documentary film, March 11, 2024, 6:00 pm EST. Watch the film, then join the discussion at 8:00 pm EST.

“‘More than its famous natural resources or its stereotypes, O Pioneer stands as a beacon for the reality of West Virginia and the people who live there. A humble but proud call to the pioneer in all of us.” – Tina Kakadelis, Film Obsessive

‘O Pioneer’ reckons with and redefines the American pioneer, following three Appalachian individuals living in West Virginia during the global pandemic. 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.

An interactive panel discussion will follow the exclusive film screening with directors Clara Lehmann and Jonathan Lacocque, Appalachian folklorist and associate director for the Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network (LiKEN) Dr. Mary Hufford, moderated by Jenny Totten, Future Generations University Appalachian Program strategy and impact manager. We hope you will join us!

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.

February 12, 2024 – Panelists

Wild River (1960) Film Trailer

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.

February 26, 2024 – Panelists

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

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.

March 25 – Foodways of Appalachia

 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.

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.

April 8 – The Dollmaker (1984)

During World War II, hard-luck farmer Colvis Nevels leaves his rural Kentucky home to take a factory job in bustling Detroit. Reluctantly accompanying Colvis is his long-suffering wife, Gertie, a talented woodcarver set in her traditional ways. When the perils of city life and Colvis’ 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

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.