Dir. Chad Nance, USA, 2021, 88 min.

Screening virtually and at Marketplace Drive-In on Thursday, May 13 at 8:30 p.m. Learn more here.

You can try to get Winston-Salem fixture Chad Nance to sit down and talk about Life in the Sacrifice Zone, his very first feature of any type and also his first RiverRun film ever. And he’ll get to it. But along the way you’ll hear about his family farm, his job as a weed columnist for Skunk magazine, Hunter S. Thompson, George Clinton’s onetime fondness for crack cocaine, his time at UNCSA, the unsung genius of Sylvester Stallone and Nance’s own fondness for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Nance is father to an exuberance of projects, enjoined most often with his life partner Carissa Joines, who has mastered the ability of focusing Nance’s light on one thing at a time: Camel City Dispatch, the muckracking journalism site that covered Winston-Salem, plus music videos for a slew of local artists, short docs, tall tales. He covered Pazuzu, Winston-Salem’s quasi-satanist and cannibal, extensively in CCD and helped on a Vice documentary about the crimes.

Life in the Sacrifice Zone is journalism of a less sensational nature — a chronicle of abuses by Duke Energy’s coal plan on Belews Creek, just outside Winston-Salem, where coal-ash spillage created health problems for predominantly Black communities in its wake.

As a villain, Nance says that Duke Energy is even more sinister than Pazuzu, who may have eaten his victims before burying them in his yard.

“Duke affected people who did not make the choice to get in their path,” Nance says. “The people of Walnut Cove didn’t choose to be poisoned by Duke. Duke invaded their neighborhood. Whereas the people who came to Pazuzu’s house, they chose to be in Pazuzu’s house.”

And where Pazuzu died of a suspicious suicide before he stood trial, Duke Energy survived multiple convictions in court.

“Felonies,” Nance says. “There’s nothing to dispute: They’re criminals; they’ve been convicted of crimes. This is how a business can manipulate state law.

“In North Carolina,” he says, “you can’t punch any higher than Duke Energy.”

Find our full guide to RiverRun 2021 here.

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