Monday, April 12, 2021

Film on journalists' rural-America trek premieres Tuesday

Deborah and James Fallows
A new documentary aims to bring to life two journalists' writings about rural America. James and Deborah Fallows crisscrossed the U.S. for five years in a small plane, writing about small towns and their newspapers for The Atlantic. They turned their travels into a best-selling 2018 book, Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America. Eight of the communities they highlighted in the book are featured in a new HBO documentary called Our Towns, which premieres on HBO and HBO Max at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday, April 13.

Directed, produced, shot and edited by Academy Award-nominated filmmakers Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan, the documentary "paints a remarkable picture of America and how the rise of civic and economic reinvention is transforming small cities and towns across the country," according to HBO. It "spotlights local initiatives and explores how a sense of community and common language of change can help people and towns find a different path to the future." View the trailer here.

The documentary is "an optimistic, visually-arresting snapshot of life in small towns and cities," Adam Giorgi writes for The Daily Yonder. "t’s impressive how many important issues the film fits into the narrative, hitting upon homelessness, opioid addiction, immigration, global trade, the legacy of slavery, climate change, and even the decline of local news. But for all its sweep, when you get past the big-picture, high-minded concerns on the filmmakers’ minds, the heart of this story is found in the details, when its feet are on the ground. It’s the close-up look at each community, and the people who live there, that animates 'Our Towns' and makes it stick. The message here is ultimately one of optimism, resilience, and reinvention, and it resounds because of the individuals seen putting those principles into practice. The filmmaking team doesn’t paper over or push aside very real and formidable challenges, but they focus their lens first and foremost on those who are working to adapt and overcome them."

Also in the Yonder, Anya Slepyan listens to its "Everywhere Radio" interview with the couple and wonders if the documentary can "help us go beyond red states versus blue states." 

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