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The Hollow (1975)

Documents the hardships faced by a poverty-level Adirondack community.


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Documents the hardships faced by a poverty-level Adirondack community.

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The Folks of Allentown
6 October 2011 | by Ralphus2See all my reviews

"The Hollow" is a brief documentary about the lives of people living in a small town in the Adirondack Mountains of New York state. A note at the beginning of the film tells us that two families moved into a hollow in the mountains while most people worked in the valley below, on farms or in mills. After the depression, work dried up in the valley and it was later dammed. The Kathan and Allen families remained where they were, isolated in their meager township with little work and few prospects. The town is referred to as Allentown but near the end of the documentary one indignant boy claims the town's real name is 'The Hollow'.

The film-makers point the camera, roll the film, and simply allow the townspeople to speak. This is one of "The Hollow's" most endearing features. I found myself fascinated by the simple, honest, humble thoughts and stories of these people. Some parts will break your heart. Others will put a warm smile on your face. Old Harmy Kathan--one of the more prominently featured townsfolk--tells a story of how he was "visiting with a woman" in a bar and a jealous rival pulled him off his stool and he broke his ankle. Harmy had liquor in him so he ignored the pain and had a fist fight with his jealous attacker. This aggravated his injury, unsurprisingly. The doctor fixed it but Harmy "jumped right off of the operator's table and walked again right out the door, broke it right out again." This was 35 or 40 years ago, he tells us. Harmy doesn't like crutches--"I can't do nothing on crutches, only walk"--so he pulls himself around on what looks like a mat.

There is little 'shape', I suppose to the film; it just shows us some of these people, tells of their reactions to a newspaper article written about the town, and then it just stops. At only around an hour running time, it's quite short. I wish there had been more. But I can't really take that as a criticism. The film is what it is. It's the residents of Allentown who leave their stories in this time capsule. I wonder how the town is today? Are the youngsters we meet still there, all grown up? Do they remember the day the film crew came into town and started speaking with their parents and uncles and old Harmy Kathan up the street? I loved this unassuming film because I came to love these people. Track it down if you can.

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