DER Documentary


Hollow - Educational DVD Edition launch preview watch a preview

by Elaine McMillion Sheldon
color, 104 min, 2013
in English

Non-profit, K-12, and Individual pricing also available
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The story of McDowell County, West Virginia, is the story of America. Of boom and bust economies. Of small towns facing changes beyond their control. And of challenges and triumphs of every size. Experience this corner of America through the stories of over 30 residents who live here today.

Hollow is an interactive documentary and community participatory project that examines the future of rural America through the eyes and voices of those living in McDowell County. The interactive experience, located at, combines video portraits, data visualizations, photography, soundscapes, community-generated content and grassroots mapping to bring these stories to life online.

This special Educational DVD Edition allows viewers guided access to 35 of these important video stories. The Hollow production team and nearly 20 of the town's residents shot these short films, which range in topic from economic and infrastructure challenges to social and health issues. Small-business owners, youth groups, coal miners, activists, high school students, fitness instructors and those working in the non-profit sector are just some of the people featured in the many short films. In total, there are over 30 individuals, from all walks of life, who share their experience living in McDowell County — an area that is representative of many boom-and-bust areas across the country.

McDowell County has lost almost 80 percent of its population since 1950 and continues to lose more young people every year due to a lack of economic opportunity. This rural brain drain has left many counties across the nation with an aging demographic and failing infrastructure. However, many people — approximately 22,000 — continue to live and work in the county. They feel a great sense of pride and belonging in the coalfields and believe they are there to help improve and move the county into the future. Focusing on the residents who have stayed during the tumultuous times, Hollow is a story of hope and home. Through Hollow, the stories of Appalachian residents help outsiders to understand the often-overlooked sector of our society.

“Filmmaker Elaine McMillion's project "Hollow: An Interactive Documentary" bridges that gap between the storyteller and the audience. The project is practically a living, breathing thing; viewers can subscribe for updates on individual people. Such connections create insight and understanding… Appalachia stories are often oversimplified and stereotypical. The simple statistics of drug abuse, obesity and other problems often create a narrow, impersonal picture. [McMillion] encountered too many stories of hope and pride to craft such a bleak “black and white” picture. She wanted to challenge preconceptions and create a more authentic view that included the day-to-day human stories of McDowell County.” — Albert Lee, LA Times
“It's maybe the most magnificently presented, web-aware journalism I've ever seen. But more important than the visual achievement is what it does — documenting the lives of people who live in a mostly ignored rural community, far from the traditional media bastions and bubbles.” — Jason Linkins, Huffington Post

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Peabody Award (2013), 2014
Webby Awards: "Web Community" honoree, 2014
Finalist in "Narrative" and "Best Visual Design", FITC Awards, 2014
Finalist in "Activism" and "People's Choice", SXSW, 2014
Adobe Creative Edge Award, Favourite Website Awards, 2013
Site of the Day, Favourite Website Awards, 2013
Site of the Day, CSS Design Awards, 2013
Official Selection, Doc Lab, International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam
Research Documentation Award, National Coal Heritage Foundation
New York Film Festival, 2013
Camden International Film Festival, 2013
Future of Storytelling, 2013

Related Resources
Hollow: An Interactive Documentary
A walkthrough of the Hollow website
Companion booklet for Educational DVD Edition (PDF)
Filmmaker's Website
Video: Hollow: Our Lessons Learned (Part 1)
Video: Hollow: Our Lessons Learned (Part 2)

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