Film screening teaches community about life in Appalachia


Lillie Bodie

Director of ‘Hillbilly’ video chatting viewers on campus.

The term ‘hillbilly’ has come to define the people of Appalachia and is viewed differently throughout the United States.

The documentary “Hillbilly” was screened Tuesday, Nov. 13 at Marshall University with free admission to the public.

Tijah Bumgarner, a journalism professor at Marshall, said she wanted to host the event because Appalachian culture is close to her heart.

“My dissertation topic is a lot about what’s in the film, kind of how Appalachians are often pigeonholed with this monolithic narrative when there’s really a ton of little narratives that are apart of the region,” Bumgarner said.

Bumgarner said the film exposes many aspects and groups throughout the Appalachian region that are not televised.

“There are things like Affrilachian poets and Queer Appalachia that are here, but in the mainstream media representation they get lost,” Bumgarner said.

Bumgarner said she wanted the film to encourage her journalism students to create documentaries of their own through emotion and personal experiences.

“I want to speak to diverse issues, but I can’t do that,” Bumgarner said. “I don’t have those experiences, and I don’t want to try, but I can keep from this Appalachian experience. I use that as a framework in a lot of my classes.”

Bumgarner said the film was important for a younger college audience for them to be informed about the political standpoints in their country.

“Millennials need to know the history, and these are the next people making the political decisions and if they have this elite view of this space and know without an understanding than that can be very problematic,” Bumgarner said.

Kaitlyn Hall, first-year graphic design major, said she was supposed to attend the screening for class but was happy she came.

“I enjoyed them film and liked that it made an effort to make the people of Appalachia seem like real people instead of how we’re portrayed in the typical Hollywood films,” Hall said.

Hall said the documentary was relevant to Marshall since it is a school that mainly consists of natives, and the state is fully consumed by the region.

“Marshall is in Appalachia, and it’s a school where many people that go here are from the area, and it’s also important to show to people that aren’t from here the people they go to school with and are surrounded by are just like them,” Hall said.

Hall said “Hillbilly” gave her insight to a different political party than she is affiliated with.

“This film opened my eyes to how the people of more rural Appalachia viewed our current president while he was running and why they wanted to vote for him because as a Democrat, it’s kind of had to see the appeal and what they seeked out of this,” Hall said.

Ashley York, director of “Hillbilly,” said she decided to create the film out of the storytelling from her grandmother from phone calls and holiday traditions.

“The origin of my grandmother being in the film began because I started documenting all of these conversation that we were having because she’s an incredible storyteller with an incredible memory,” York said.

York said when creating the movie she found many various political standpoints in Appalachia.

“I encountered more progressive points of view, with a political duality between liberal and conservative all through Appalachia,” York said.

York said one of the biggest tribulations while creating the film was showing all aspects of Appalachia and then defending it against the stereotypes.

“It was a constant struggle, trying to spend so much time to unpack and unravel that and we had to stop focusing on what Appalachia isn’t and what Appalachia is and elevating the voices of people you don’t always hear from, such as Affrilachian poets and youth filmmakers,” York said.

“We have this connection in this space and understanding in the construction of place, power and identity and how that can be problematic for certain people,” Bumgarner said.

Lillie Bodie can be contacted at [email protected].