Mimi Pickering has been making films and videotapes with Appalshop since 1971. Her documentaries often feature women as principle storytellers, focus on injustice and inequity, and explore the efforts of grassroots people to deal with community problems and work for change. The stories are told primarily through the voices and images of those most directly involved or affected by the issues. She is especially interested in the interplay and dynamics associated with combining traditional cultural aesthetics with social change agency.
Mimi is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and two Kentucky Arts Council Fellowships, as well as media production grants from the American Film Institute and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. In addition to her production work, she directs Appalshop’s Community Media Initiative, which works with grassroots groups and public interest organizations to develop and implement communication strategies in support of social and economic justice organizing.
A native of California who attended Antioch College, Pickering had her first media experience as an intern in Charleston, WV, working for the West Virginia Black Lung Association, a group of disabled coal miners and their families who were fighting for just compensation for their black lung disease and to reform the United Mine Workers Union. While in West Virginia, she began work with Appalshop on a film production that became her first 16mm film, The Struggle of Coon Branch Mountain. In 1972 Pickering relocated to eastern Kentucky to continue her film training and media production at Appalshop, but she has continued her interest in West Virginia subjects throughout her career.
Pickering’s award-winning documentaries include The Buffalo Creek Flood: An Act of Man (1975), which was one of 25 "culturally, historically, or aesthetically" significant motion pictures named by the Librarian of Congress to the National Film Registry in 2005. Described by Newsweek as "a powerful piece of muckraking on film," the documentary was a Silver Plaque winner at the Chicago International Film Festival. Filmed 10 years after the disaster, Buffalo Creek Revisited looks at the efforts of Buffalo Creek survivors to rebuild the physical and emotional community shattered by the flood. Other work includes Chemical Valley (1991), a documentary produced with Anne Lewis about issues of environmental justice in the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia. Chemical Valley was broadcast nationally on PBS as part of the P.O.V. series. The program was screened at the U.S. Environmental Film Festival, the Earth/Peace Film Festival, the San Francisco International Film Festival and the American Film and Video Festival, where it won a Blue Ribbon.