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Award-winning new documentary, ‘hillbilly’ gives fresh, diverse look at Appalachia

November 8, 2018

You can get a fresh and diverse look at Appalachia in the new documentary, “hillbilly” that is being screened in both Charleston and Huntington.At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, Underground Cinema, 230 Capitol St., Charleston (located in the basement of Taylor Books Annex), will be screening “hillbilly,” a film in which directors Sally Rubin and Ashley York show the evolution of the uneducated, promiscuous `hillbilly’ stereotype in media and culture, linking it with corporate exploitation of Appalachia’s natural resources. The film will also be shown at Underground Cinema at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 16-17, 23-24 and Nov. 30.Filmed in Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, ‘hillbilly’ examines the experience of rural voters and seeks to expand understanding of the region by featuring diverse communities in Appalachia, including Appalshop’s Appalachian Media Institute where young adults find community and refuge, and the Affrilachian Poets, a grassroots group of poets of color living in the Appalachian region. hillbilly seeks to challenge viewers’ perception of Appalachia, opening up dialogue between urban and rural America, and offering folks within the region a cinematic portrayal of which they can be proud.“hillbilly” was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, has been acquired for distribution by the Orchard, and recently won the Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the Los Angeles Film Festival. It premiered at the Nashville Film Festival as the Closing Night Movie, opened last week as the Opening Night Movie at Hot Springs, and won Michael’s Moore’s Founder’s Award at the Traverse City Film Festival. The film has been Long-listed for an Oscar and was called a “serious Oscar contender” in the Wrap in October.

Featuring bell hooks, Ronny Cox and Billy Redden from Deliverance, director Michael Apted, activists and writers Frank X Walker, Crystal Good, and Silas House, and musicians Sam Gleaves and Amythyst Kiah, ‘hillbilly’ arrives at a crucial moment, confronting depictions of Appalachian and other rural people on a broad, national level.It introduces audiences to a nuanced, authentic Appalachia that is quite conscious of how it has been portrayed and the impacts of those portrayals. The documentary deconstructs mainstream representations while asking crucial questions: Where did the hillbilly archetype come from and why has it endured on-screen for more than a hundred years? How does it relate to the exploitation of the land and people who live there? How do Appalachian and rural people view themselves as a result of these negative portrayals, and what is the impact on the rest of America?“Appalachia is no stranger to the complexity of media representation. Since our country’s inception, there has been a palpable divide between Urban and Rural America. Within this great divide, certain regions are viewed as “other,” and blamed for America’s social ills,” said the directors in a press release.“Since the presidential election, the cultural divide in America has expanded. Stereotyping and slurs are rampant, finger-pointing and name-calling abound. ‘hillbilly’ goes on a personal and political journey into the heart of the Appalachian coalfields, exploring the role of media representation in the creation of the iconic American “hillbilly,” and examining the social, cultural, and political underpinnings of this infamous stereotype, said the directors in a press release.After the film, there will be a discussion with co-producer, Jon Matthews and production assistant, Tijah Bumgarner, who is also an adjunct professor at Marshall University. Visitors to Undergound Cinema can enter through Taylor Books or through our alley entrance in the alley between Capitol Street and Hale Street. Seating is limited. Tickets are $9 or $5 for students and are available online at http://www.wviff.org/hillbilly/At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Marshall University and the Diversity Committee of SOJMC is presenting a free screening of “hillbilly,” at Marshall University.Sponsored by Marshall University’s Film Studies Program and the Department of English, Marshall University’s First Year Seminar, and Marshall University Libraries, the film is being screened at Smith Hall 154. The screening is free and open to the public.There will be a Q&A with directors Ashley York and Sally Rubin over Skype and co-producer Jon Matthews in attendance will follow the screening.“This film does a wonderful job of exploring how the negative connotation of ‘hillbilly’ was built and the ways in which people in the region are tearing it down,” said Tijah Bumgarner, assistant professor of journalism and mass communications at Marshall. “Being a media-maker and teacher here in Appalachia, I feel that this film is an inspiration and necessity in showing the power of naming and the importance of amplifying the multiple voices that make up the region, opposed to the simplistic, often stereotypical stories we hear.”Please RSVP to the Marshall free screening at: https://goo.gl/hfFqRg

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