Synopsis by Arthur Borman
Premiering at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival in the documentary competition, Rory Kennedy goes into the heart of Appalachian life in Eastern Kentucky to expose the human side of "hillbillies." Iree Bowling, 68 years old and mother of 13, discusses life in the hollow through interviews and footage of her and her large family. Iree and her family are stuck in century-old traditions that have turned them into a family suffering from poverty thanks to welfare, and unemployment due to lack of opportunities in the Appalachians. Many of the grandkids dream of leaving once and for all, aware they are giving up a time-honored heritage. Iree's son Edgar (age 33) is incarcerated for trespassing. Samantha (25) and her two children suffer from an abusive husband. Clint (17) can either continue the tradition of welfare (like his father and uncles) or head out into an unfamiliar world to find success. All of Iree's children have tried to get out of the hollow -- 12 have returned. American Hollow is not condescending to the Bowlings but is instead a celebration of family life and Americana that isn't normally seen in a dramatic context. In other words, this isn't The Beverly Hillbillies or Deliverance.
Appalachia, family, poverty, slice-of-life