‘Little Accidents’ highlights socioeconomic issues in small mining town

In the fictional film “Little Accidents,” a fatal mining accident in a small American town that killed 10 miners sets off a chain of events that cause the town’s unraveling. Heavily divided by socioeconomic status after the accidents, the town’s residents become interconnected and dependent on each other in different ways.

The independent film was brought to the Bill Cosford Cinema at the University of Miami on Wednesday night as part of the Sundance Institute’s Film Forward Festival. The festival is a touring program designed to enhance greater understanding, collaboration and dialogue around the globe by engaging audiences through the exhibition of films and conversations with filmmakers. Speakers were on campus to talk to certain classes throughout the week.

Meredith Lavitt, director of the Film Forward Initiative, said that the festival has a powerful mission to impact lives.

“We’ve all come together because we do believe in the power of storytelling to bring audiences together, to learn from each other, to inspire each other – we go all over the world,” Lavitt said to a small audience of about 20 inside of Cosford before introducing “Little Accidents.”

The film, written and directed by Sara Colangelo, is a coming-of-age story that highlights a rural West Virginia town where coal mining is the career destined for residents at birth. The film incorporates more issues than solely a tragic mining accident, though, including socioeconomic distress, stigma against children with disabilities and the distinction between the idea of morality and what is right and wrong. It is one of eight films in the festival and one of three at the Cosford that portrays issues relevant to a global audience, Lavitt said.

“We look for films that have universal themes and we feel like can connect to different audiences around the world – from documentaries, to narratives, international and domestic films,” she said. “This program is about reaching different pockets and this is a destination that we hadn’t gone to yet.”

Jason Berman, the producer of “Little Accidents,” believes that the director’s own experience of living in West Virginia and witnessing firsthand the socioeconomic divide in mining towns made the film and its message richer in content.

Berman said one of the key messages of the film is acknowledging that people’s actions, regardless of social class, can have a great effect on everyone, and that “everyone coming together” is an important element of life.

The Sundance Institute’s previous relationship with UM’s Cosford Cinema is what drew them to come this year with the festival, giving UM students a unique opportunity to engage in cross-cultural conversations, Lavitt said. As a weekly attendee of Cosford Cinema screenings, sophomore motion picture major Muguang Chen said that films like “Little Accidents” are great opportunities not only to learn about cinematography, but also to learn about real stories.

“I am not from this country, so viewing films from America or any other country are great learning experiences for me. This film festival does great things for college students as it allows for growth in many areas,” Chen said.

More information about the festival can be found at sundance.org/filmforward.

Featured image courtesy Sundance Film Forward