A Different Kind of Travel

West Virginia received the perfect gift on her sesquicentennial in the form of Hollow, an interactive documentary showcasing the beauty and problems in McDowell County. Problems – and beauty – which exist throughout our great state and country.

McDowell was formerly one of the richest areas in the US, thanks to king coal. Its population reached nearly 100,000 residents, third highest in WV in 1950, and was home to the Rocket Boys popularized in Homer Hickam’s memoir. During the early 80s, mining declined (I’m sure some blame current President Obama) and McDowell was one of the hardest hit areas. Today, the population is just over 21,000 with many closed storefronts and empty homes littering the county.

The force behind this documentary, Director Elaine McMillion, describes herself as part of the problem, leaving her state behind to chase her dreams. There aren’t many opportunities for filmmakers, or those in a host of other professions. Her “sense of guilt” inspired this project as she one day wants to return to her home state, make improvements and create social change.

Rather than an outsider coming in and telling folks about their problems, McMillion encouraged those living in McDowell, many of whom remember the heyday and many others who want to make a difference, to identify the strengths and weaknesses that exist and the opportunities they think could be pursused to make an impact. (Aside: this reminds me of another piece worth checking out, The Southern WV Photovoice Project http://wvphotovoice.org/. The book is worth the fee. I viewed the exhibit many years ago and the images still haunt me. Can you imagine living without safe water in your home? Too many WVians have and still do.)

Projects like Hollow have made a postive impact in communities in the past. “Using video recording technology, the citizens of Rosedale, once referred to as “the rear end of Alberta” by a frustrated citizen, pulled themselves together as a community. They formed a committee, cleaned up the town, built a park, and negotiated with the government to install gas, water and sewage systems. And ALL this happened within five months.” Learn more about this at http://www.nfb.ca/playlists/challenge-for-change/viewing/vtr_rosedale/#temp-share-panelUsing.

I encourage you to take some time to discover Hollow at http://www.hollowthefilm.com/about/project-team/ and view the documentary at http://www.hollowdocumentary.com/ (you need Google Chrome; click the circular arrow to the left of the web address in upper left corner of screen).

I hope the positivity of the individuals profiled, and the many who shared their talents to make Hollow possible, is the catalyst to make a difference in McDowell, in West Virginia and across the United States. Rather than fight one another on “sides” of politics (on completely unrelated issues like what’s happening in my uterus), let’s support one another, work together and create positive change for humankind.

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