VSL//A new documentary that’s funny, riveting and appalling all at once

Johnny Knoxville, leader of the Jackass crew, probably isn’t the first filmmaker that comes to mind when one thinks of thoughtful, well-executed documentaries. But watching The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (available through cable’s On Demand or via Amazon download) may alter forever your opinion of him.

This film, which Knoxville executive-produced, tells the story of the White family, a West Virginian clan famous for their mountain tap dancing and infamous for their reckless lifestyle—including stabbings, shootings, forgery, larceny, embezzlement and lots of drug use. Though family members recount most of these events—how one White stabbed her boyfriend, or another shot his uncle, or another, while attempting to prove his gun wasn’t loaded, shot himself—many of the situations are caught on the cameras that followed the Whites around for a year. What this amounts to is a mesmerizing, funny yet often extremely sad picture of a coal mining culture—one’s awe at this amazing family can’t help but be tempered by the thought of their near devastation.

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VSL//A new documentary that’s funny, riveting and appalling all at once