A great strength of the cinema is its transformative power; to show you another life and influence your understanding of the other. In Troublesome Creek, that “otherness” isn’t an abstract symbol of “Trump Country” edifying the narrow concept of the “forgotten tribe” that fractured American politics in 2016. Troublesome Creek demystifies the culture and values of the working class voters who went from Bernie to Trump. The Appalachian community we’ve become familiar with is an exploited one on so many levels. And it’s not all white and all poor. And it’s not a bunch of dumb inbreds that swayed the election. This narrative fetish is unfair and marginalizing.
Many Americans preserve this narrative to avoid facing the actual causes of poverty, barriers to upward mobility, income inequality, and the opioid epidemic devastating Appalachia. Historian Elizabeth Catte summarizes, “the arc of Appalachian history is filled with stories of attempts by the powerful to sever poor people from the richness of the land around them. The wealthy exonerated themselves with their insistence that their economic experiments – extractive capitalism – had positive impact on a people otherwise doomed without intervention.”
We tell a story capturing reality. We take an intimate view of the people to better examine the difficult choices facing them. We see how the opioid epidemic affects all aspects of a society and people who are actively striving. We catch a glimpse of small-town LGBTQ culture, far from the urban mythology insisting it has vanished, and we celebrate such diversity with gentle realism and simple acknowledgement.
Cinema can have powerful messages. I believe the strongest are experienced through dramatic exploration of character and setting. Rooted in the mission of Italian Neorealism, Troublesome Creek honors the working class by producing a genre-like page-turner amid their struggles, villains and heroes among them.