American Hollow

  • 1999
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Documentary

A profile in courage of a different kind. This 90-minute documentary by Rory Kennedy (the youngest child of Robert and Ethel) chronicles a year in the lives of 68-year-old Iree Bowling, her husband Bass, and seven of their 13 children and their families. All but one of the Bowling clan live in Mudlick hollow — a verdant, mile-wide valley situated among...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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A profile in courage of a different kind. This 90-minute documentary by Rory Kennedy (the youngest child of Robert and Ethel) chronicles a year in the lives of 68-year-old Iree Bowling, her husband Bass, and seven of their 13 children and their families. All

but one of the Bowling clan live in Mudlick hollow — a verdant, mile-wide valley situated among the remote rolling hills of Appalachian Kentucky. But this is no idyllic Dogpatch: The Bowlings live just above subsistence level and each family member is dependent on government assistance, $120

a week plus food stamps. To help make ends meet, the Bowling men work the woods of Mudlick, selling the carpets of moss they peel from damp logs and the ginseng and bloodroot they dig up, and Iree grows most of her own food in her garden. Kennedy's camera follows various members of this hardy clan

through their daily routines and the occasional family crisis: Iree tends to her home, cares for her aged mother and visits her brain-damaged sister Marion; Iree's son Edgar is arrested for breaking and entering a neighbor's house, and the family scrambles to pay his bond; 20 year-old grandson

Clint wants to marry his fickle girlfriend Shirley and leave the hollow, but has no money or prospects; granddaughter Samantha takes her children and leaves her abusive, potentially murderous husband, fearing for her life. Aside from Samantha's story, the lives of the Bowlings aren't terribly

dramatic and are probably no different from thousands of other Appalachians who struggle for survival and a clean, dignified life. But Iree and her family's willingness to open up both their homes and their lives helps put a human face on Appalachia and goes a long way towards dispelling nasty

stereotypes of "hillbillies" and "poor white trash."

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A profile in courage of a different kind. This 90-minute documentary by Rory Kennedy (the youngest child of Robert and Ethel) chronicles a year in the lives of 68-year-old Iree Bowling, her husband Bass, and seven of their 13 children and their families. A… (more)

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