Filmmaking cousins return to their grandparents’ struggling hometown to find hope in the face of poverty.
Sundance alum Andrew Droz Palermo (cinematographer, A TEACHER and BLACK METAL) and Emmy winner Tracy Droz Tragos (director, BE GOOD, SMILE PRETTY) have family roots in the eponymous Missouri town that marks the cousins’ first creative collaboration as co-directors. The place where their grandparents served important community roles had fallen into economic and social decline, offering few opportunities and seemingly promising only the trap of cyclical poverty. Prompted to explore the realities of life in the endangered town, Andrew and Tracy narrowed their focus to three teenage boys, revealing both the pitfalls and potential that the future might hold.
The cousins are currently three weeks away from the end of a Kickstarter campaign for finishing funds. In the first week, they’ve raised about a quarter of their $60,000 goal, and would welcome additional contributions from interested readers. To stay updated on their progress, visit the project’s Facebook page.
I’m drawn to the Droz cousins’ project just as I am to other documentaries about marginalized and under-represented subjects. Teens like Andrew, Appachey, and Harley are not typically provided a spotlight, nor are rural communities like theirs, except, perhaps, in exploitative or well-meaning but condescending “poverty porn.” The filmmakers’ personal connection to the Missouri town they’re chronicling assuages such fears, suggesting that they will bear witness to their subjects’s trials with sensitivity and balance. On a technical level, the trailer provided demonstrates the promise of Palermo’s camerawork, upending expectations of gritty poverty with vibrant scenes of resilience despite formidable challenge. I look forward to learning more about their subjects and their hometown.
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