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DocuAppalachia Explores 50 Years of Environmental Change in Watauga County in a Film Presentation on April 21

A recent documentary film compares 1970s images filmed in Watauga County to those same scenes today. In collaboration with the Watauga County Public Library, the film will be featured as part of celebrating Boone’s 150th anniversary.

Around 1971, local photographer George Flowers, made a silent film featuring idyllic images from Watauga County juxtaposed with images of trash piles, rusting vehicles, black smoke, dirty water, and a pig. This film was discovered in storage in 2017.

“As far as we know, the Flowers film was not shown publicly until recently,” said DocuAppalachia film director Beth Davison.

In 2019 a public screening of the original 15-minute Flowers film led to a discussion and curiosity about the environmental conditions shown in the footage compared to conditions today.

“After hearing some of the questions raised after people saw the Flowers film, we realized many members of the audience were unaware how much had changed and why things had changed since the early 70s,” said DocuAppalachia co-director Kristan Cockerill.

This prompted Davison and Cockerill to begin collaborating on a film that would highlight the environmental issues raised in the Flowers film and compare those issues to contemporary conditions. The result is a 20-minute film documenting positive changes in land, air, and water quality attributed to the array of federal environmental regulations passed in the early 1970s. The film also shows, however, that concerns Flowers had about development continue to have negative environmental consequences in this region.

“It has been 50 years since the first Earth Day and since the modern Clean Water and Clean Air Acts were passed, so we thought it would be interesting to explore what might surprise George Flowers and what he might recognize as the same,” said Davison. “It also seems appropriate to highlight these historic images as part of Boone’s anniversary.”

There are two upcoming opportunities to see DocuAppalachia: A Half Century Focus on the Environment, both are free and open to the public.

The film will screen on the campus of Appalachian State University-Belk Library 114 on April1 12th at 7pm and the Watauga County Public Library April 21 at 5:30pm in the community room. Admission is free and open to everyone.