Front Porch Blog

Holler to the Hood

Appalshop has come out with some amazing films recently.

The Buffalo Creek Flood: An Act of Man:

The Buffalo Creek Flood: An Act of Man chronicles the 1972 disaster which killed 125 people and left 4,000 homeless when a coal-waste dam collapsed at the head of a hollow in Logan County, WV.

( Buy Buffalo Creek: An Act of Man.)

And just last week I got to catch a sneak peek of Holler to the Hood, a documentary. It is coming out next week, and is an excellent documentary about the Red Onion State Prison, and Wallins Ridge State Prison in Wise County, KY (Whitesburg.)
Click here to purchase your copy.

Amelia Kirby prefaced the 1-hour roller-coaster by saying “feel free to shut your eyes at any time…”

Holler to the Hood focuses on the Construction of the Wallins Ridge State Prison in Whitesburg, KY where filmakers Amelia Kirby and Nick Szuberla made a name for themselves as hip-hop radio DJ’s. They now broadcast a show into the prison.

This DVD will be interesting particuarly to people who work in the coalfields and who have gotten used to the kind of propoganda that large private companies (such as coal companies or prisons) will produce in an area. The opening of the 1200 capacity “super-maximum” security facility (meant to house the “worst of the worst”) in the coalfields of rural Kentucky was greeted as a saving grace to a communnity desperate for jobs. The opening of the prison was attended by numerous state politicians, and was described by one spectator as a “pep rally.”

One of my favorite moments was a young mother who was talking about how great it was that this prison was opening, how much it meant to their community, and so on. No sooner did she turn around to find her son playing near the fence. “Billy,” she said (a little too calmly) “thats razor wire.”

Prisoners, of course, were brought in from New Mexico, Conneticut, and all around the country. It was interesting, as families, friends, prisoners, and prison workers were interviewed, to see the stereotypes that people had of Appalachian culture. They just seemed clueless, and paranoid, and a little worried at how “backwards” we are. It was also interesting to see the people that made it to this “worst of the worst” prison. One 20 year old boy, arrested on a minor drug charge, had been sent there all the way from Conneticut. The movie chronicles his suicide, and the efforts the family makes to expose what is happening at Wallins Ridge. One family describes the prison as a kind of “human bazaar,” that is not too removed from slavery.

Coalfield and urban residents I think will get the most from this film. I encourage everyone to check out “Holler to the Hood” and the other great films and documentaries that Appalshop has to offer.





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