“hillbilly” audiences search for better understandings of Appalachia
I’m glad I had the opportunity to see the DC premiere of Hillbilly: a documentary film. If you want to obtain a better understanding of America this film is essential homework.
E. Ethelbert Miller, poet, host “On the Margin” WPFW- FM
“hillbilly” D.C. premiere
MBG was very excited to work with Sally Rubin and Ashley York to present an impact screening of their documentary “hillbilly” in Washington, DC in December. The film was hosted by The LINE Hotel in DC’s Adams Morgan neighborhood.
Frank X. Walker, an Affrilachian poet featured in the documentary joined the after-film discussion with Jan Pyltalski, Washington correspondent for 100 Days In Appalachia, an online publication started after the 2016 elections. Filmmaker Ashley York joined the conversation via Skype.
Ask most people what they consider the definitive Hollywood treatment of Appalachia and “Deliverance” comes to mind. Ask someone from the region what film is the most accurate, and they may answer “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” the Loretta Lynn biopic. Both are presented in “hillbilly” to make the point about the impact of representation and stereotyping in popular culture, film, television, and news coverage of Appalachia.
“hillbilly” challenges outsider perceptions of Appalachia and rural America. Having Ashley York, a native of Kentucky as the guide turns the “you-can’t-go-home-again” Thomas Wolfe title/adage on its head. Ashley is as transparent with her family about being “With Her” (supporting Hillary Clinton) as they are in their MAGA-hat support for Donald Trump. The election results don’t and haven’t built walls of division between Ashley and her family.
Appearances by Frank X. Walker, bell hooks, and other African Americans (Nina Simone) from the region were the happy surprise for some attendees at the screening bringing in new audiences for “hillbilly. Same goes for appearances by Silas House, LGBTQ artists/activists, feminists and other “unexpected” natives who embrace the hillbilly identity.
Anyone working on the ground in Appalachia will want to see “hillbilly.” Take Dolly Parton’s endorsement — I’m happy to see somebody trying to cover us as we really are and not what some people think we are.