American Hollow


Bottom 40% of all time (see others with this rank)

Festival Year

1999 (click here to see all competition films from this year)


Documentary Competition

Non-Cast Credits

Rory Kennedy, Sheila Nevins, Nick Doob, Adam Zucker, Bill Frisell


If we relied upon cinematic representation(be it Deliverance or The Beverly Hillbillies) for an impression of Appalachia, our vision would be one of squalor and moonshine, inbred gun toters, and malnourished, gap-toothed children. In her stunning and sensitive portrait of one extended Appalachian family, Rory Kennedy lifts the veil on such suppositions. Instead, she turns her lens on a modern-day family honoring century-old traditions and caught between dependency on welfare, inability to find employment, and unwillingness to leave the home they love.

Guided by the family's mouthpiece and matriarch, sixty-eight-year-old Iree Bowling, we meet her thirteen children and thirty grandchildren, many of whose lives are beset by domestic turmoil and economic deprivation. lree's,son Edgar has just been arrested for trespassing and is jailed when the family's combined property values fail to meet the requisite five-thousand-dollar bail. Her grand-daughter Samantha experiences yet-another violent attack by her abusive husband and finally resolves to terminate her marriage. Determined to forge a better, fuller life, seventeen-year-old Clint begs the hand of his flighty girlfriend and, like many Bowlings before him, ventures to leave the hollow forever.

Against the idyllic pastoral backdrop of isolated, eastern Kentucky, Kennedy combines extraordinary verite footage and interviews to evoke the joys and heartache of everyday Appalachian life. In documenting the dreams and reality of a forgotten America, American Hollow emerges as a humanistic, life-affirming exploration of love and kinship in the face of adversity.


Rebecca Yeldham (see other films reviewed by the same reviewer)

Film Takes Pace.