After reading What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia, I walked away with more films to watch and more books to read. My family hails from the outlying regions of Appalachia, and as a family historian, I have always found the culture and region intriguing. It was my ‘other home’ since my family migrated from the region before I was born — and by the age of four, I was living in southwest Ohio.
The film, Stranger With a Camera, explores the murder of renown Canadian filmmaker High OConnor who was killed by a Jeremiah, Kentucky man while he was filming one of the man’s tenants. The documentary is filmed by a member of the Appalshop and resident of the region where the murder took place.
Since the film is short — about one hour (it can be live-streamed here for $3) — I won’t go into the ‘plotline’ but will instead discuss its broader theme. The backdrop for the film is the death of a filmmaker and the man who fired the gun. However, the director is really exploring the concept of who gets to tell a community’s story. The region where the story takes place was visited heavily by government officials and VISTA volunteers in the late 1960s as part of the War on Poverty. The filmmaker looks at how the community — and which parts — became part of the national dialogue. To set the stage she uses various news reels about the region and points out the individuals that she personally knows on the camera.
Those interested in storytelling — or how a community deals with ‘outsiders’ — will find the film enjoyable. Besides filming ‘locals,’ including the man who witnessed the murder, the director interviews crew members and the daughter of the murdered man.
My Rating 5 out of 5. The film successfully captures the ‘heart and soul’ of Jeremiah, Kentucky in a sensitive, yet objective and informative, way.