Documentary Celebrating Humanity, Diversity of Appalachia to Screen 10/17, 11/3

Throughout American history, there has been an undeniable divide between urban and rural America. People from certain regions are viewed as “the other,” and blamed for America’s social ills. Since the 2016 presidential election, that cultural divide has only expanded and deepened. With their documentary Hillbilly, co-directors Ashley York and Sally Rubin — both natives of Appalachia— have made a complex film about complex people.  Hillbilly is an entertaining, informative, and sobering look at Appalachia: its diversity, the consequences of stereotyping its people, and an examination of why so many there voted for Donald Trump.

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.

Billy Redden, the banjo-playing boy featured in Deliverance, now a grown man — holds a picture of himself from the film.

Filmed in Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, Hillbilly uncovers communities of artists, activists, queer musicians, “Affrilachian” poets, and feminists — all unexpected voices emerging from this historically misunderstood region.  Hillbilly introduces audiences to a nuanced, authentic Appalachia that is quite conscious of how it has been portrayed and the impacts of those portrayals. The film deconstructs such famous characterizations of the region as Deliverance, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Simpsons, and MTV’s Buckwild,” 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?

The Appreciating Diversity Film Committee chose this surprising, valuable documentary in order to have Bay Area viewers ask, “How do we get beyond the typical hillbilly caricature and learn more about today’s real Appalachian people?” Program organizers found themselves eager to challenge their own prejudices and find out more about the rural South, and they invite audiences to view and discuss the film. Hillbilly is a timely and urgent exploration of how we see and think about poverty and rural identity in contemporary America, offering a call for dialogue.

“I’m happy to see somebody trying to cover us as we really are and not what some people think we are. 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.” —Dolly Parton 

Los Angeles Film Festival Jury Prize for Best Documentary

NB: Documentary filmmaker Rick Goldsmith, whose films have been nominated for Academy Awards and featured in our Series before will facilitate 10/17’s conversation about Hillbilly!


Piedmont Thursday 10/17
Ellen Driscoll Playhouse
325 Highland Avenue
Piedmont, CA
6:30 pm Reception
7 – 8:30 pm Screening
8:30 – 9 pm Facilitated Discussion

Oakland Sunday 11/3
New Parkway Theater
474 24th Street
Oakland, CA 94612
12:30 – 2:30 pm
Food available for purchase
Come for Brunch!