hillbilly, a new documentary film that explores the historical basis of cultural stereotypes about people from Appalachia in film and television, is scheduled to make its worldwide debut at the Nashville Film Festival on May 19, 2018.
The film’s two directors, Ashley York and Sally Rubin, both with Appalachian roots, interviewed Berea faculty, including Chad Berry, bell hooks and Silas House. Other Bereans connected with the film are musician and alumnus Sam Gleaves, who was interviewed and contributed music, and Sam Cole, who is the associate producer. Several other alumni made appearances in the film as well.
The documentary offers a rich and varied point of view of this complex and historically misunderstood region causing viewers to think about poverty and southern and rural identities in contemporary America.
hillbilly takes the viewer on a personal and political journey into the heart of Appalachia, exploring the role of media and culture in the creation of the iconic American “hillbilly,” and examining the social, cultural, and political underpinnings of this infamous stereotype.
Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and filmed in Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia and California, hillbilly uncovers a community of artists, poets, activists, queer musicians, “Affrilachian” poets and intersectional feminists—all unexpected voices emerging from this historically misunderstood region.
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? What is the impact on the rest of America?
hillbilly offers a call for dialogue between the historically divided populations of urban and rural, North and South.
“I’m happy to see somebody trying to cover us as we really are and not what some people think we are,” Dolly Parton, native Appalachian and country music superstar, said about the film’s release. “It’s wonderful the attention you’ve paid to so many areas that are so important to all of us. I’m proud to have been mentioned in the film a time or two.”