On the afternoon of Saturday, August 19th the documentary film Centralia: Pennsylvania’s Lost Town played at the Campus Theatre in Lewisburg, PA. Present at the film were many former residents of the town, as well as the film’s director Joe Sapienza II and David DeKok, author of Fire Underground: The Ongoing Tragedy Of The Centralia Mine Fire.
- Watch the official trailer for Centralia, Pennsylvania’s Lost Town
- See show times and locations for where to watch the Centralia documentary film
The screening began at 2PM and opened to a packed house. As the lights went down in the beautiful Art Deco theater, the audience prepared themselves to watch the 1 hour 40 minute director’s cut of the film.
Centralia: Pennsylvania’s Lost Town takes viewers through the entire history of the town and its tragic mine fire. Beginning in the mid-1800s and covering right up to the present day, the documentary film weaves a story from the perspectives of residents past and present, the government’s own actions, and local news archives.
The story of Centralia, PA is not an easy one to tell. The feature-length documentary, which took three years to create and originally began as a college project for Sapienza, works to include as many facets as possible. Of particular note are the less well-known chapters: the Centralia curse, the neighboring town of Byrnesville, and the hotly debated mine fire conspiracy theory.
One of Joe Sapienza’s strengths as a filmmaker is his ability to capture poignant and moving interviews with key players in the Centralia story. A notable one of these is Anne Marie Devine. Devine, who served as Centralia’s mayor during the forced relocation of the town in the 1990s, describes her experiences like taking on Pennsylvania’s governor at the time, Bob Casey.
By the end of the film, the audience is left with a comprehensive view of the turbulent history of Centralia and its residents. Though, unlike a Hollywood studio movie, the film was unable to provide the satisfaction that comes from happy ending.
The fact of the matter is that the story of Centralia, Pennsylvania is a tragedy. It is also a story whose ending has yet to be written. Today, the mine fire still burns, and a handful of residents still fight to maintain the place they lovingly call home.
When the film concluded, Joe Sapienza and David DeKok took the stage to hold a panel discussion about the documentary. The audience was provided a unique opportunity to engage with these two individuals, who have so much first-hand experience working with the story of Centralia.
Centralia: Pennsylvania’s Lost Town is a must see for anyone interested in the topic of the Centralia mine fire or Pennsylvania coal towns. The documentary continues to be screened at select locations. Please view this page for a complete list of locations and times.