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Native Politics

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Native Politics: a documentary film project funded through the Kentucky Humanities Council, Appalshop and EKU's Center for Appalachian Studies.

"Out of a history so much ruled by the motto Think Big, we have come to a place and a need that requires us to think small." -- Wendell Berry

Native Politics, a joint endeavor of Eastern Kentucky University and Appalshop, is a campus-community partnership based in Letcher County, Kentucky that will explore the influence that enduring local traditions, attitudes, and growing mistrust of government has on how and why we vote. Native Politics will rely on the disciplines of history, jurisprudence, and ethics to investigate the nature of the cultural traditions and values exemplified by mountain politics and explore who we are as rural communities, as parts of regions, and as a nation. The project will have two primary components; the production of a documentary film, and a series of forums facilitated by Eastern Kentucky students.

The Appalshop film production will focus on the 2006 election for County Judge-Executive in Letcher County, and will examine the history of County politics in Kentucky, the role of the Democratic and Republican parties in the region, and the level of public awareness and involvement in the process. Appalshop filmmakers will employ an observational and intimate style, following the campaign and election through close and direct contact with the candidates, magistrates, local power brokers, and county residents. Through the gaze of this immediate and unfolding story, the film will engage the audience around issues of civic commitment in local governance and investigate the increasing influence of corporate and private interests in political races.

The second piece will take the form of a series of Community Forums to be conducted by EKU students in Letcher County, prior to the primary election. The forums will address issues of community organizing and involvement in the political process. The filmmakers will document these discussions and incorporate them into the narrative structure of the film. This work will provide students first-hand access to the local political process and will be an excellent catalyst for education and a tool for respectful dialogue in the community.

Beginning in January 2006 the filmmakers will begin meeting with the Humanities Scholars to develop the historical aspects of the film, and to plan the Community Forums. They will participate in the pre-production phase of the film as reviewers of scripted or other written material, and will advise the filmmakers on the accuracy and relevance of the historical and ethical elements of the work. The Community Forums will be developed in January and February 2006. The filmmakers will work with the scholars to develop the structure of the forums, and consider the best way to maximize the participation of the public in the forums. The forums will be organized and facilitated by EKU students, under the direction of the scholars, and will be conducted in late March and April 2006. The scholars will review the documentation of the forums and follow-up interviews with some of the forum participants for relevance and inclusion in the film. Following this review, Co-director Salyer and project participant Shawn Lind will assemble material from the initial investigations into a video sample and plan for the next production phase.

Principal Investigators: Filmmaker Robert Salyer & EKU Center for Appalachian Studies director, Alan Banks
Principal Humanities Advisor: Gordon McKinney, Berea College

Check out the Events & Activities scheduled for the documentary film project.
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