HELVETIA, W.Va. (WBOY) — When you hear the word “pioneer,” you may think of the American settlers or maybe a trailblazer on the cutting edge of exploration or their industry. Now, a team of filmmakers from Randolph County is attempting to redefine what it means to be a pioneer with their latest documentary, set to premiere in Clarksburg this weekend.
“O Pioneer” tells the story of three seemingly ordinary West Virginians: Tim Hibbs, a blacksmith from Upshur County, Nellie Rose Davis, a seamstress from Tucker County and James Morley, a hospital chaplain from Harrison County.
The film was produced by Helvetia-based Coat of Arms.
While much of the film was produced during the COVID-19 pandemic, the documentary focuses on the subjects’ struggles in their daily lives.
“A pioneer lives within each of us,” said director Clara Lehmann. “Especially in West Virginia, where we have been told many times that maybe we don’t matter as much, or there are hurtful stories that seem to plague our communities and I think it’s very destructive and I wanted to be able to lift us a little through this film and these individuals.”
While the film was produced in West Virginia and features three of the state’s residents, the directors hope it reaches a global audience.
“The point of the film is in some ways to be [about] more than just West Virginia,” said director/cinematographer Jonathan Lacocque. “Even though I do feel strongly that it is West Virginia-made and for West Virginians. West Virginians will see themselves in these characters, but our hope is no matter where you live, you will see these neighbors that you have—these people you don’t interact with have stories just like James, Nellie and Tim.”
“O Pioneer” is the first artistic endeavor to be supported by the Country Roads Angel Network, a group of investors who typically support startups and other business ventures in West Virginia.
“I think with hardship comes great creativity and great hope for change,” said Lehmann. “I hope that’s something all of us pull from this film and that we see ourselves in those individuals and go out and do the same in our communities.”
The film’s West Virginia premiere will be at the MTN Craft Film Festival being held at the Robinson Grand Theater in Clarksburg. The film screens at 8:45 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 30 followed by a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers and the subjects of the documentary.