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“Either this is the most horrific story I’ve ever heard, or these people
are completely crazy.” Thus begins Libby, Montana, an incisive and unrelenting portrayal of a
small northern mining town’s codependent and ultimately tragic 40-year relationship with the
company that sustained it.

W.R. Grace made millions from the local vermiculite mine, producing
fireproof house insulation among other products. What you learn early in the film is what town residents
didn’t discover until it was too late—that the vermiculite mined at Libby contains asbestos.
The toxic dust affected not only the men who worked at W.R. Grace, but the wives who washed their contaminated
clothing and the children who hugged their fathers’ dust-covered legs at the end of the workday.
You also learn that asbestos-laced insulation from W.R. Grace’s Libby operation can be found in
as many as 35 million American homes.

As with other hard-hitting High Plains Films documentaries, Libby,
Montana employs no voice-over narration. Instead, the story emerges through the voices of its
characters, including the EPA’s heroic, if egotistical, front-line cleanup man, Paul Peronard,
and the asbestosis victims who tell their stories, punctuated by coughs and gasps.

Equally powerful, and strangely moving, is the footage of W.R. Grace
mine manager Earl Lovick giving—or, rather, resisting—testimony in a civil trial
regarding his and his company’s responsibility for the sickness and death of hundreds of employees.
In his 70s at the time of the testimony, Lovick appears defiant yet oddly unmoored, a man faced with
the awful truth of his complicity. He himself was suffering from asbestosis when he died in 1999.

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IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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