A chance introduction at a funeral in 2007 was the catalyst for the making of the documentary movie “The Knox Mine Disaster: The End of Anthracite.”
The movie, produced by a pair of cousins, West Pittston native David Brocca and East Stroudsburg native Albert Brocca, debuts Tuesday, Jan. 22, the 60th anniversary of the disaster. The film will premiere at the Kirby Center for the Creative Arts at Wyoming Seminary, 260 N. Sprague Ave., Kingston, as one of the feature events of Anthracite Mining Heritage Month. The premiere will be followed by a question and answer session with the filmmakers and music by Lex Romane. Tickets must be purchased in advance and there is still time to order tickets at www.knoxminedisaster.com. Seats are general admission only. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the premiere starts at 7.
The Broccas graduated from Wyoming Area. David was a film major at Penn State when he got an internship in Los Angeles at IFILM.com. He’s been in Los Angeles ever since, where he founded Pitch Films with his brother in 2008.
Around that time, David was introduced to Bob Wolensky, a King’s College adjunct professor, the author of two Knox Mine Disaster books and the father of Anthracite Mining Heritage Month.
“I met Bob, randomly enough, at my great-grandmother’s funeral,” Brocca said. “He was introduced to me by my uncle, Billy Best, who is very involved in the preservation of anthracite history.”
Knowing Brocca was a filmmaker, Wolensky suggested, or as Brocca says, “insisted” he make a movie about anthracite mining in NEPA.
“The first interview I did was with Bob Wolensky in March of 2008. Then, over the years, whenever I came back to the area I would interview more people who had connections to the disaster. Originally I had no intentions of making a feature documentary, I just felt in my heart that these men had a fascinating story to tell and I wanted to preserve those stories through on-camera interviews. That was it, that’s how it all started.”
Through his research and interviews, Brocca felt there was one aspect of the disaster which hadn’t been fully explored.
“We’ve all seen the raging vortex of the Susquehanna. I wanted to show what happened underground. To do the film justice, we’d had to do a reenactment of what the miners experienced underground.”
To accomplish the reenactment, the Broccas worked with Ben Mackey, the artist/co-creator of the “Saints,” a comic book series distributed by Image Comics.
“I supplied him with reference images of what the miners looked like, what they wore, tools they used, etc. Then, based on the interviews from the actual miners who experienced the disaster, I outlined scenes and Ben drew them in a charcoal style to match the aesthetic of the film. That part of the story was the most fascinating to me personally and I felt that telling it could be my contribution to the legacy.”
A decade after Wolensky inspired him to produce a Knox movie and with the premiere only days away, Brocca is ready to roll.
“I’m very excited about the premiere,” he wrote in an email. “I wasn’t going to miss the 60th anniversary. The Kirby Center for Creative Arts theater at Wyoming Seminary is a beautiful state-of-the-art theater that doesn’t have a bad seat in the house.”
“I’d really like to encourage people to get out of the house and come out and see it on Jan. 22, 2019, the 60th anniversary of the disaster, especially if you have a grandparent or great-grandparent that lived during the disaster. This is a great opportunity for young people to do something special with that family member and see the film with a live audience. It will be something they’ll never forget.”