‘Rich Hill’ – A Film About Life

‘Rich Hill’ – A Film About Life

Lauren PesinTuesday,31 March 2015

The 2014 documentary Rich Hill recorded the lives of boys growing up in the small American town of Rich Hill, Missouri (population 1,393). The Sundance award-winning film focused on three teenage boys facing the challenges of life in low-income households in rural America. The teenagers (ages 13, 14, and 15) discussed concerns associated with bills, food, clean clothes, hot water, rape, and missing, sick, and imprisoned parents. These teenagers lived in various degrees of squalor and dysfunction, each one facing their own struggles.

It is disheartening that parts of the United States (urban and rural) continue to struggle to survive. Cities and towns across the U.S. are suffering all forms of distress. Some populations across the nation don’t seem to have the same access to or knowledge of resources. There are still “old mining towns,” people who “used to work on the railroad, ” and “mountain folk” that live a different life than more privileged Americans.

After watching the film and pondering over the noted despair, I took a moment to reflect. Besides being a commentary on the inequalities that exist in the U.S. and the towns we left behind, I noticed a lack of technology.

Unlike the teenagers I see on T.V., at the mall, or in my neighborhood, these three modern day teenagers were not attached to mobile devices and the Internet. I think I saw a glimpse of an ancient cell phone and an old gaming console, but other than that I saw no computers, smart phones, tablets, music players, or even one attempt to access the Internet. As they did in every other facet of their lives, these kids and their families somehow lived without.

How did these kids keep up with friends, make plans, do homework, or research event times and book report topics? Did they have no access to social media or webmail? Besides schoolwork, did any of that matter? Is the lack of access to technology a part of what keeps them struggling? Did it make them focus on living (physically seeing and interacting with people)? Was technology a necessity for them? Is it a necessity for you?

Rich Hill was an excellent film with multiple underlying messages associated with the human condition and the American experience. I respect and embrace the filmmakers intended meaning. Along with the expected impact, the film sparked a different set of questions for me.

The film made me wonder how teenagers that live the opposite experience of privilege and technological convenience would fair with only the basics of food and shelter. If you are, know, or are the parent of such a teenager, how do you think they would do if you took away their laptop, tablets, and their smart phones? How would they talk to their friends or do their homework?

As adults, how would we do if for one day we did not use a smart phone, computer, any mobile device, music player, or gaming console? Does technology make life easier, more convenient, or harder and in what ways?

Is simpler ever better? Is having more always better? Are there low-income families that live a simple, but good life surrounded by a loving, supportive, and healthy family? Does poverty always equal unhappy? Are there any families who live a simple life intentionally and happily? Where do they live? What makes them happy? For some people happiness is as basic as providing food and shelter to their family. For some people happiness is grandiose gifts and travel. What makes you happy?

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Image Credit: Screen shot via YouTube

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