It's been 50 years since the "War on Poverty" was declared from an Appalachian front porch – how far have we come? How much farther do we have to go, and where, exactly, is our destination? Journalist Ralph B. Davis asks these questions of many prominent Appalachians in his new documentary "Appalachia 2050."
‘Appalachia 2050′ is an effort find solutions to the region’s historic economic troubles and related problems. The project will interview leaders in a wide variety of fields to get their opinions on what must be done to lead the region to a successful future by the year 2050, as well as what a successful future might look like (e.g., Does success mean Appalachia should look like the rest of America, or does it mean something different that harnesses the unique culture of the region?).
While the modern mythology of Appalachia has prompted many journalists and filmmakers to explore the region’s historic problems with poverty, nearly every popular account of Appalachia has been undertaken by outsiders who focus their attention on the most glaring examples, rather than on the norm. As a result, residents of the region often bristle over what are perceived as slanted and stereotypical depictions of mountain residents as dirt-poor, uneducated, uncouth, potentially violent hillbillies. ‘Appalachia 2050′ will be unique as it will seek to obtain an honest and unflinching appraisal of where the region is economically, where it needs to go, and how it will get there, from those who live, work and lead their professions from within the region.
In addition to the documentary, which can be viewed here, Davis' website features a number of multimedia accompaniments, including video, radio stories, photos and interviews. What's perhaps most important is that the voices profiled are Appalachian ones – not those of political pundits or "experts" who have spent little time in the region. Of course there is plenty to learn from other viewpoints, but when it comes to Appalachian development, sometimes it seems that Appalachian citizens are the last people anyone talks to.