REVIEW: ‘Rich Hill’ depicts struggle of poverty in small-town America

Mar. 20, 2014 @ 10:42 AM

Fresh off its 2014 Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, “Rich Hill” is a film for the top of your list when tickets go on sale March 27 for the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. Full Frame will be held in downtown Durham April 3-6. In “Rich Hill,” filmmakers Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo, who are cousins, bring audiences into the daily lives of three boys in small-town Missouri.
Rich Hill is the name of the town, population 1,396. “Rich Hill” shares the stories of Andrew, Appachey and Harley. Each lives in poverty and has his own struggles related to circumstance, family and other factors.
All three are good kids making their way the best they can with the tools they have. As you watch the film, you begin to see why and how the boys ended up where they are, and some complex reasons behind it. You also see the bonds of family expressed in different ways. It’s heartwarming to see how much Andrew, 13, loves his family, especially his sister. He is ever hopeful about their futures as they move from town to town as his dad looks for new jobs.
Appachey, 12, is a good-hearted kid with a chip on his shoulder who already smokes. Harley, 15, loves his mom who is in prison and is angry over something else. All the boys seem much older than they are, because they’ve had to deal with adult issues at a young age. You feel for them. They could be a kid anywhere. It’s Rich Hill, Mo., but it’s also a lot of small towns in the U.S. The issue of children being victims of their circumstances is not just a small-town occurrence, either, but a big city one. Without resources and advantages others have, what will their futures bring?
After another move, Andrew sums it up:
“I have no say in what happens. They’re the parents, I’m the kid.”
There’s no narration to get in the way. The story is shown and told by the boys themselves. We experience the humanity on screen because the families give the camera a huge amount of access. The filmmakers have captured the lives of three kids worth knowing and issues worth some thought.
“Rich Hill” will be screened at 7:20 p.m. April 5 in Cinema Four of the Durham Convention Center, 201 Foster St. For ticket and schedule information, visit