BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter John Mellencamp will introduce the National Geographic documentary “From the Ashes” at a free screening at 4:30 p.m. today at the Indiana Memorial Union’s Whittenberger Auditorium. The film, produced by Bloomberg Philanthropies and RadicalMedia, explores the legacy and future of the coal industry in the United States.
The event is open to the public and sponsored by IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the Integrated Program in the Environment.
Directed by Emmy-nominated filmmaker Michael Bonfiglio, “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.
The film goes beyond the rhetoric of the “war on coal” to present compelling and often heartbreaking stories about what is at stake for our economy, health and climate. With 7,500 U.S. deaths from coal pollution each year, the film invites audiences to learn more about this dying industry and how it affects their everyday lives.
”From the Ashes” premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, and it made its global broadcast debut on National Geographic in June. National Geographic has been rolling out the film globally across 171 countries and 45 languages.
Mellencamp, a Bloomington resident, recorded a unique rendition of the Merle Travis song “Dark as a Dungeon” for the film. Written in 1946, “Dark as a Dungeon” portrayed the plight of coal miners at the height of the coal industry.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for IU students and the entire campus and Bloomington communities,” said Jeff White, a member of SPEA’s faculty and director of the Integrated Program in the Environment. “We are grateful that John Mellencamp will be here in person to offer his insight. The film offers a thoughtful point of view on an important issue. SPEA and IPE are proud of our tradition of hosting a diverse array of events that critically address such complex socio-environmental issues.”
Mellencamp received an honorary degree from IU in 2000, and his name graces the university’s primary indoor athletic training facility. He is one of 10 musicians being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame this year.
His career in music, spanning more than 35 years, has seen him transition from pop star to one of the most highly respected singer/songwriters of a generation. He is an authentic voice of American music and a master storyteller with a commitment to creating traditional rock ‘n’ roll, bittersweet songs of happiness and melancholia, inequality and fervent political dissent.
With dozens of hits to his credit, the singer has taken on the plight of the family farmer, issues with authority figures and, of course, his own musings on relationships. Throughout his prolific career, Mellencamp has written more than 20 Top 40 hits, including “Jack and Diane,” “Small Town,” “Crumblin’ Down,” “The Authority Song,” “Rain on the Scarecrow,” “Lonely Ol’ Night,” “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.,” “Paper in Fire,” “Check It Out,” “Pink Houses,” “Pop Singer” and “Jackie Brown.” These iconic American songs have played an important role in defining Midwestern music and developing the rock genre.