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Stranger with a Camera (2000)

A look at the reaction and aftermath of the murder of a documentary filmmaker in rural Kentucky in 1967.



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A look at the reaction and aftermath of the murder of a documentary filmmaker in rural Kentucky in 1967.

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January 2000 (USA)  »

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Elizabeth Barrett: What are the responsibilities of any of us who take the images of other people and put them to our own uses? Hobert Ison was wrong to kill Hugh O'Connor, but saying that is not enough for me. It is the filmmaker's job, my job, to tell fairly what I see, to be true to the experiences of both Hugh O'Connor and Hobert Ison, and in the end to trust that that is enough.
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Thought provoking, intelligent documentary
26 October 2011 | by (US) – See all my reviews

Thought provoking, intelligent documentary about the 1967 murder of a documentary filmmaker from Canada, who was doing a profile of the lives and people of a poor eastern Kentucky town.

He was killed by a local landowner while finishing an interview with a renter on the killer's property.

But there was a larger context to the story. Some of the people of the area were tired of the constant stream of photographers, filmmakers and politicians that showed up in Appalachia starting in the mid 60s to film, or be filmed with the poor. There was an anger and a shame that all that was seen of their community was the squalor, not the character or culture of the local people.

This film by a locally born and raised filmmaker shows an even hand, and an understanding and sorrow for all involved.

It's clear there was exploitation by some outsiders here, but also a real desire to understand and to help by others.

What's ironic is the exploitation of journalists and photographers couldn't come close to the systemic exploitation by the coal mine owners and others who stripped the land, and paid people only a fraction of their worth. But that was a part of life as everyone knew it.

This doesn't go quite as deep as I wished in, but it is a worthwhile examination of a brutal crime in human terms.

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