WELCH, W.Va. -- An interactive documentary film that aims to let the people of McDowell County tell their own stories launches this week, with a website going live Thursday, on West Virginia Day.
"Hollow'' combines video portraits, user-generated content, data, mapping and soundscapes on a website that explores a coalfields community where life flows with the boom-and-bust cycle of coal.
Screenings are set for 9 p.m. Saturday at the Martha Moore Riverfront Park in Welch and 7 p.m. Sunday at Big Creek People in Action in Caretta.
The production team focused on about 30 people between 9 and 65 years old. But it wants others to share their stories at computer labs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the McDowell Public Library and the Caretta building.
"Hollow'' was conceived by West Virginia University graduate Elaine McMillion, who was inspired in 2009 by the book, "Hollowing Out The Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What It Means for America.'' It focused on the implications of youth leaving dying communities.
"I knew that although these places had lost their populations, there were still people committed to staying there with interesting stories to tell,'' McMillion said.
"The stories of West Virginia and Appalachia are so often controlled and told by outsiders,'' she said. "For many years we have been defined by that perspective, which often oversimplifies and stereotypes us.''
But McDowell's grim statistics are real and well documented.