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American Hollow (1999)

 -  Documentary  -  26 May 1999 (USA)
7.4
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 290 users  
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This film tells the tale of a close-knit Appalachian family that has changed little in the last 100 years.

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Title: American Hollow (1999)

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Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 4 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Bascum Bowling ...
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Clint Bowling ...
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Edgar Bowling ...
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Iree Bowling ...
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Samantha Bowling ...
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This film tells the tale of a close-knit Appalachian family that has changed little in the last 100 years.

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The Hillbilly Life
6 January 2000 | by (Florida) – See all my reviews

If Rory Kennedy meant her documentary, "American Hollow," to show us a poor Southern rural white family as something more respectable than the disparaging hillbilly stereotype, she failed.

Not only were those familiar stereotypes not dispelled in this film, they were played out before us.

The film offers us snaggletoothed, alcoholic louts given to ridiculing their wives and kids. We see amazingly good-humored, unprotesting womenfolk who do all the work of keeping the family together and fed, with little help from the men.

The chronically unemployed men in the Bowling family simply won't leave to find work and a better life outside the hollow in their part of Kentucky where there are few job prospects.

Worse, they actively encourage failure in the "young'uns" as well.

I suspect we're supposed to believe that the Bowlings are nevertheless noble because they have deep roots on the land they've been unemployed, impoverished, and uneducated on for generations.

My grandparents came across the Atlantic to America because they couldn't make a living in the old country. I think that's far more courageous (and American) than staying in a lousy situation with no hope.

Poor rural black folks have to contend with racial discrimination when they go to the city for job opportunities. By contrast, the Bowling men, most of them blond, wouldn't have that hurdle to jump. But no, they stay resolutely mired in their hollow.

I'm a pretty soft-hearted person, but I lost my respect for the Bowling men in the first ten minutes of the film.

However, even if most of the subjects of this documentary aren't appealing, the film itself is well-made. I did learn one thing from "American Hollow" -- that love-sick teenage boys and the sweet young things who lead them on are the same the world over.


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