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Black River

A docu-short that unravels the multifaceted challenges faced by one of America’s poorest communities, while celebrating the unwavering resilience and spirit that defy the statistics.


In Max Retik’s evocative documentary, the lens skillfully captures the resilience and spirit of Letcher County, Kentucky, one of America’s most economically challenged regions, with Morgana McKenzie’s cinematography beautifully illustrating the nuanced stories within. The film gracefully navigates through the multifaceted challenges faced by the community, from the struggles of the lost generation in Fleming-Neon to the environmental toll of coal mining, economic downturns, religion, water pollution, and the pressing issue of mental health.

Retik engages with individuals of all ages, presenting a comprehensive mosaic that embodies the tight-knit nature of the community. The documentary goes beyond statistics, unraveling the collective strength and determination that persist despite adversities. Cinematically, the film is a visual delight, with well-framed shots and adept post-production enhancing the storytelling.

The exploration of the aftermath of past mine disasters adds depth to the narrative, creating a well-rounded perspective of the community’s history and current challenges. ‘Black River’ is not only a visually stunning piece of filmmaking but also an educational and insightful journey into the heart of a community that defies the odds with its unwavering spirit. It is a testament to the power of storytelling, shedding light on the lesser-known aspects of American life and fostering a profound connection between the audience and the resilient souls of Letcher County.

Black River Short Film


Runtime: 24 min

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